Richard Wagner: My Life, Part 4 (1861-1864)
AND so I again crossed Thuringia, passing the Wartburg which, whether I visited it or merely saw it in the distance, seemed so strangely bound up with my departures from Germany or my return thither. I reached Weimar at two in the morning, and was conducted later in the day to the rooms which Liszt had arranged for my use at the Altenburg. They were, as he took good care to inform me, Princess Marie's rooms. This time, however, there were no women to entertain us. Princess Caroline was already in Rome, and her daughter had married Prince Constantin Hohenlohe and gone to Vienna. There was only Miss Anderson, Princess Marie's governess, left to help Liszt entertain his guests. Indeed, I found the Altenburg was about to be closed, and that Liszt's youthful uncle Eduard had come from Vienna for this purpose, and also to make an inventory of all its contents. But at the same time there reigned an unusual stir of conviviality in connection with the Society of Musical Artists, as Liszt was putting up a considerable number of musicians himself, first and foremost among his guests being Bulow and Cornelius. Every one, including Liszt himself, was wearing a travelling cap, and this strange choice of head-dress seemed to me typical of the lack of ceremony attending this rural festival at Weimar. On the top floor of the house Franz Brendel and his wife were installed with some splendour, and a swarm of musicians soon filled the place, among them my old acquaintance Drasecke and a certain young man called Weisheimer, whom Liszt had once sent to see me at Zurich. Tausig put in an appearance too, but excluded himself from most of our free and easy gatherings to carry on a love-affair with a young lady. Liszt gave me Emilie Genast as a companion on one or two short excursions, an arrangement with which I found no fault, as she was witty and very intelligent. I made the acquaintance of Damrosch too, a violinist and a musician. It was a great pleasure to see my old friend Alwine Frommann, who had come in spite of her somewhat strained relations with Liszt; and when Blandine and Ollivier arrived from Paris and became my neighbours on the Altenburg, the days which were lively before to begin with, now became boisterously merry. Bulow, who had been chosen to conduct Liszt's Faust Symphony, seemed to me the wildest of all. His activity was extraordinary. He had learned the entire score by heart, and gave us an unusually precise, intelligent, and spirited performance with an orchestra composed of anything but the pick of German players. After this symphony the Prometheus music had the greatest success, while I was particularly affected by Emilie Genast's singing of a song-cycle, composed by Bulow, called Die Entsagende. There was little else that was enjoyable at the festival concert with the exception of a cantata, Das Grab im Busento by Weisheimer, and a regular scandal arose in connection with Drasecke's 'German March.' For some obscure reason Liszt adopted a challenging and protecting attitude towards this strange composition, written apparently in mockery by a man of great talent in other directions. Liszt insisted on Bulow's conducting the march, and ultimately Hans made a success of it, even doing it by heart; but the whole thing ended in the following incredible scene. The jubilant reception of Liszt's own works had not once induced him to show himself to the audience, but when Drasecke's march, which concluded the programme, was at last rejected by the audience in an irresistible wave of ill- humour, Liszt came into the stage-box and, stretching out his hands, clapped vigorously and shouted 'Bravos.' A real battle set in between Liszt, whose face was red with anger, and the audience. Blandine, who was sitting next to me, was, like me, beside herself at this outrageously provocative behaviour on the part of her father, and it was a long time before we could compose ourselves after the incident. There was little in the way of explanation to be got out of Liszt. We only heard him refer a few times, in terms of furious contempt, to the audience, 'for whom the march was far and away too good.' I heard from another quarter that this was a form of revenge on the regular Weimar public, but it was a strange way of wreaking it, as they were not represented on this occasion. Liszt thought it was a good opportunity to avenge Cornelius, whose opera The Barber of Bagdad had been hissed by the Weimar public when Liszt had conducted it in person some time previously. Besides this, I could of course see that Liszt had much to bear in other directions. He admitted to me that he had been trying to induce the Grand Duke of Weimar to show me some particular mark of distinction. He first wanted him to invite me, with himself, to dine at court, but as the Duke had qualms about entertaining a person who was still exiled from the kingdom of Saxony as a political refugee, Liszt thought he could at least get me the Order of the White Falcon. This too was refused him, and as his exertions at court had been so fruitless, he was bent on making the townsmen of the Residency do their part in celebrating my presence. A torchlight procession was accordingly arranged, but when I heard of it I took all possible pains to thwart the plan – and succeeded. But I was not to get off without any ovation at all. One afternoon Justizrath Gille of Jena and six students grouped themselves under my window, and sang a nice little choral society song, for which attention I thanked them most warmly. A contrast to this was presented by the great banquet attended by all the musical artists. I sat between Blandine and Ollivier, and the feast developed into a really hearty ovation for the composer of Tannhauser and Lohengrin, whom they now 'welcomed back to Germany after he had won their love and esteem during his banishment.' Liszt's speech was short but vigorous, and I had to respond in greater detail to another speaker. Very pleasant were the select gatherings which on several occasions met round Liszt's own dinner-table, and I thought of the absent hostess of Altenburg at one of them. Once we had our meal in the garden, and I had the pleasure of seeing my good friend Alwine Frommann there conversing intelligently with Ollivier, as a reconciliation with Liszt had taken place.
The day for parting was drawing near for us all, after a week of very varied and exciting experiences. A happy chance enabled me to make the greater part of my prearranged journey to Vienna in the company of Blandine and Ollivier, who had decided to visit Cosima at Reichenhall, where she was staying for a 'cure.' As we were all saying good-bye to Liszt on the railway platform, we thought of Bulow, who had distinguished himself so remarkably in the past few days. He had started a day in advance, and we exhausted ourselves in singing his praises, though I added with jesting familiarity, 'There was no necessity for him to marry Cosima.' And Liszt added, bowing slightly, 'That was a luxury.'
We travellers – Blandine and I, that is – soon fell into a frivolous mood which was much intensified by Ollivier's query, repeated after each burst of laughter, 'Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?' He had to submit good-humouredly to our continuous joking in German, though we always responded in French to his frequent demands for tonique or jambon cru, which seemed to form the staple of his diet. It was long after midnight when we reached Nuremberg, where we were obliged to halt for the night. We got ourselves conveyed to an inn by dint of much effort, and were kept waiting there some time before the door opened. A fat and elderly innkeeper acceded to our entreaties to give us rooms, late as it was, but to accomplish this he found it necessary – after much anxious reflection – to leave us in the hall for a good long time while he vanished down a back passage. There he stood outside a bedroom door, and we heard him calling 'Margarethe' in bashful and friendly tones. He repeated the name several times with the information that visitors had arrived, and a woman answered him with oaths. After much pressing entreaty on the innkeeper's part Margarethe at last appeared, in neglige, and showed us, after various mysterious confabulations with the host, the rooms selected for us. The odd part of the incident was that the immoderate laughter in which we all three indulged seemed to be noticed neither by the innkeeper nor by his chambermaid. The next day we went to see some of the sights of the town, last of all the Germanisches Museum, which was in such a wretched condition at that time as to earn the contempt of my French companion particularly. The large collection of instruments of torture, which included a box studded with nails, filled Blandine with sympathetic horror.
We reached Munich that evening, and inspected it the next day (after tonique and ham had again been obtained) with great satisfaction, particularly on the part of Ollivier, who thought that the 'antique' style in which King Ludwig I. had had the museums built contrasted most favourably with the buildings with which, much to his indignation, it had pleased Louis Napoleon to fill Paris. I here ran across an old acquaintance, young Hornstein, whom I introduced to my friends as 'the baron.' His comical figure and clumsy behaviour gave them food for mirth, which degenerated into a positive orgy of merriment when 'the baron' thought it necessary, before we started on our night journey to Reichenhall, to take us to a Bier-Brauerei some distance away, so that we should see that side of Munich life. It was pitch dark and there was no light provided, except a stump of a candle to light 'the baron,' who had to go down himself to fetch the beer from the cellar. The beer certainly tasted particularly good, and Hornstein repeated his descent into the cellar several times. When, being obliged to hurry, we set off on our perilous journey across fields and ditches to the station, we found that the unwonted refreshment had somewhat dazed us. Blandine fell fast asleep as soon as she got into the carriage, only waking at daybreak when we arrived at Reichenhall. Here Cosima met us, and took us to the rooms that had been prepared for us.
We were first of all rejoiced to find Cosima's state of health much less alarming than we – I in particular – had known it to be before. She had been ordered a sour-milk cure, and we went to look on the next morning when she took her walk to the institution. Cosima appeared to lay less stress on the actual milk-drinking, however, than on the walks and the sojourn in the splendid, bracing, mountain air. Ollivier and I were generally excluded from the merriment which here too immediately set in, as the two sisters, to secure more privacy for their talks – they laughed so incessantly that they could be heard a long way off – usually shut themselves away from us in their bedrooms, and almost my only resource was to converse in French with my political friend. I succeeded in gaining admission to the sisters once or twice, to announce to them amongst other things my intention of adopting them, as their father took no more notice of them – a proposition received with more mirth than confidence. I once deplored Cosima's wild ways to Blandine, who seemed unable to understand me, until she had persuaded herself that I meant timidite d'un sauvage by my expression. After a few days I had really to think of continuing my journey, which had been so pleasantly interrupted. I said good-bye in the hall, and caught a glimpse of almost timid inquiry from Cosima.
I first drove down the valley to Salzburg in a one-horse carriage. On the Austrian frontier I had an adventure with the custom-house. Liszt had given me at Weimar a box of the most costly cigars – a present to him from Baron Sina. As I knew from my visit to Venice what incredible formalities make it exceedingly difficult to introduce these articles into Austria, I hit upon the plan of hiding the cigars singly among my dirty linen and in the pockets of my clothes. The officer, who was an old soldier, seemed to be prepared for precautionary measures of this sort, and drew forth the corpora delicta skilfully from all the folds of my little trunk. I tried to bribe him with a tip, which he actually accepted, and I was all the more indignant when, in spite of this, he denounced me to the authorities. I was made to pay a heavy fine, but received permission to buy back the cigars. This I furiously declined to do. With the receipt of the fine I had paid, however, I was also given back the Prussian thaler which the old soldier had quietly tucked away before, and when I got into my carriage to continue the journey I saw the same officer sitting placidly before his beer and bread and cheese. He bowed very politely, and I offered to give him his thaler back, but this time he refused it. I have often been angry with myself since for not asking the man's name, as I clung to the notion that he must be a particularly faithful servant, in which capacity I should like to have engaged him myself later on.
I touched at Salzburg, arriving soaked through by floods of rain, and spent the night there, and on the following day at last reached my place of destination – Vienna. I proposed to accept the hospitality of Kolatschek, with whom I had been friendly in Switzerland. He had long since been granted an amnesty by Austria, and had, on my last visit to Vienna, called on me and offered me the use of his house, to avoid the unpleasantness of an inn, in the event of my returning for a longer stay. For reasons of economy alone – and these at the time were very urgent- -I had willingly accepted this offer, and now drove direct with my hand luggage to the house described. To my surprise I at once discovered that I was in an exceedingly remote suburb, practically cut off from Vienna itself. The house was quite deserted, Kolatschek and his family having gone to a summer resort at Hutteldorf. With some difficulty I unearthed an old servant, who seemed to think she had been warned of my arrival by her master. She showed me a small room in which I could sleep if I liked, but was apparently unable to provide either linen or service of any kind. Greatly discomfited by this disappointment, I first drove back into town to wait for Kolatschek at a certain cafe in Stephan's Platz, which, according to the servant, he was likely to visit at a particular time. I had been sitting there a good while, making repeated inquiries for the man I expected to see, when suddenly I saw Standhartner come in. His extreme surprise at finding me there was intensified, as he told me, by the fact that he had never in his life entered this cafe. It had been quite a special coincidence that had brought him there on that day and at that time. On being made aware of my situation he at once became furious at the idea of my living in the most deserted part of Vienna when I had such pressing business in the city, and promptly offered me his own house for temporary quarters, as he and all his family would be away for six weeks. A pretty niece, who, with her mother and sister, lived in the same house, was to see to all my wants, including breakfast, etc., and I should be able to make use of the whole place with the greatest freedom. He took me triumphantly home with him at once to a deserted dwelling, as the family had already gone to their summer resort at Salzburg. I let Kolatschek know, had my luggage brought in, and for a few days had the pleasure of Standhartner's society and easy hospitality. I realised, however, from information given me by my friend, that my path was beset with new difficulties. The rehearsals for Tristan und Isolde, which had been planned in the spring to take place about this time (I had arrived in Vienna on 14th August), had been postponed indefinitely as Ander, the tenor, had sent word that he had injured his voice. On hearing this I at once concluded that my stay in Vienna would be useless; but I knew that no one would be able to suggest any other place where I could employ myself profitably.
My situation was, as I now saw plainly, quite hopeless, for every one seemed to have deserted me. A few years back I might, in a similar case, have flattered myself that Liszt would be pleased to have me at Weimar during the period of waiting, but if I returned to Germany just now I should only have to look on at the dismantling of the house – to which I have already alluded. My chief concern, then, was to find a friendly shelter somewhere. It was with this sole end in view that I turned to the Grand Duke of Baden, who had shortly before greeted me with such kindness and sympathy. I wrote him a beseeching letter, urging him to consider my necessitous condition. I pointed out that what I wanted, above all, was an asylum, however modest, and implored him to provide me with one in or near Karlsruhe, by securing me a pension of two thousand four hundred marks. Judge of my surprise on receiving a reply, not in the Grand Duke's own hand, but only signed by him, to the effect that if my request were granted, it would probably mean that I would interfere with the management of the theatre, and, as a very natural result, discussions would ensue with the director (my old friend E. Devrient, who was now doing splendidly). As the Grand Duke would in any such case feel obliged to act in the interests of justice, 'possibly to my disadvantage,' as he put it, he must, after mature consideration, regretfully decline to accede to my request.
Princess Meternich, who had suspected my embarrassment on that score also when I left Paris, had given me a warm recommendation to Count Nako and his family in Vienna, referring me with particular emphasis to his wife. Now I had made the acquaintance through Standhartner, during the short time before he left me, of young Prince Rudolph Liechtenstein – known to his friends as Rudi. His doctor, with whom he was very intimate, had spoken of him to me in the most flattering way as being a passionate admirer of my music. I often met him at meal times at the 'Erzherzog Karl,' after Standhartner had joined his family, and we planned a visit to Count Nako on his estate at Schwarzau, some distance away. The journey was made in the most comfortable fashion, partly by rail, in the company of the Prince's young wife. They introduced me to the Nakos at Schwarzau. The Count proved to be a particularly handsome man, while his wife was more of a cultured gipsy, whose talent for painting was evidenced in striking fashion by the gigantic copies of Van Dyck resplendent on the walls. It was more painful to hear her amuse herself at the piano, where she gave faithful renderings of gipsy music, which, she said, Liszt failed to do. The music to Lohengrin seemed to have prepossessed them all very much in my favour, and this appreciation was confirmed by other magnates who were visiting there, among them being Count Edmund Zichy, whom I had known in Venice. I was thus able to observe the character of unconstrained Hungarian hospitality, without being much edified by the subjects of conversation, and I had soon, alas! to face the question as to what I was to get from these people. I was given a decent room for the night, and on the following day took an early opportunity of looking round the beautifully kept precincts of the majestic castle, wondering in which part of the building there might be found room for me in case of a longer visit. But my remarks in praise of the size of the building were met at breakfast with the assurance that it really was hardly big enough for the family, as the young Countess in particular lived in great style with her suite. It was a cold morning in September, and we spent it out of doors. My friend Rudi seemed to be out of humour. I felt cold, and very soon took leave of the great man's board with the consciousness of having rarely found myself in the company of such nice people without discovering the smallest subject in common. This consciousness grew into a positive feeling of disgust when I was driving with several of the cavalieri to the station at Modling, for I was reduced to absolute silence during the hour's drive, as they had literally only the one topic of conversation, by that time so terribly familiar to me! – namely horses.
I got out at Modling to call on Ander the tenor, having invited myself for that day with the intention of going through Tristan. It was still very early on a bright morning, and the day was gradually growing warmer. I decided to take a walk in the lovely Bruhl before looking up Ander. There I ordered a lunch in the garden of the beautifully situated inn, and enjoyed an extremely refreshing hour of complete solitude. The wild birds had already ceased singing, but I shared my meal with an army of sparrows, which assumed alarming proportions. As I fed them with bread- crumbs, they finally became so tame that they settled in swarms on the table in front of me to seize their booty. I was reminded of the morning in the tavern with the landlord Homo in Montmorency. Here again, after shedding many a tear, I laughed aloud, and set off to Ander's summer residence. Unfortunately his condition confirmed the statement that the injury to his voice was not merely an excuse; but in any case I soon saw that this helpless person could never under any circumstances be equal to the task of playing Tristan, demi-god as he was, in Vienna. All the same I did my best, as I was there, to show him the whole of Tristan in my own interpretation of the part (which always excited me very much), after which he declared that it might have been written for him. I had arranged for Tausig and Cornelius, whom I had again met in Vienna, to come out to Ander's house that day, and I returned with them in the evening.
I spent a good deal of time with these two, who were sincerely concerned about me and did their best to cheer me. Tausig, it is true, was rather more reserved, as he had aspirations in high quarters at that time. But he, too, accepted Frau Dustmann's invitations to the three of us. She was then at Hietzing for the summer, and there dinners were given more than once, and also a few vocal rehearsals for Isolde, for which part her voice seemed to possess some of the spiritual susceptibility required. There, too, I read through the poem of Tristan again, still thinking the prospect of its performance possible with the exercise of patience and enthusiasm. For the present patience was the quality most needed; certainly nothing was to be obtained by enthusiasm. Ander's voice still failed him and did not improve, and no doctor was prepared to fix a limit to his malady. I got through the time as best I could, and hit upon the idea of translating back into German the new scene to Tannhauser, written to a French text for the performance in Paris. Cornelius had first to copy it from the original score for me, as this was in a very defective condition. I accepted his copy without inquiring further about the original left in his hands, and we shall see the result of this later on.
A musician named Winterberger also joined our party. He was an old acquaintance, and I found him in a position I much envied. Countess Banfy, an old friend of Liszt's, had taken him into her very pleasant house at Hietzing, and he was thus in excellent quarters, living at ease, and with nothing to trouble about, as the kind lady thought it her duty to keep this fellow – in other respects so undeserving – supplied with everything. Through him I again had news of Karl Ritter, and was told that he was now at Naples, where he lived in the house of a piano-maker, whose children he had to teach in return for board and lodging. It seems that Winterberger, after running through everything, had on the strength of some of Liszt's introductions started off to seek his fortune in Hungary. But things did not fall out to his satisfaction, and he was now enjoying compensation in the house of the worthy Countess. I met an excellent harpist there – also one of the family – Fraulein Mossner. By the Countess's orders she was made to betake herself and her harp to the garden, where, either at or with her harp, she had a most pert air and looked quite delightful, so that I gained an impression which lingered pleasantly in my mind. Unfortunately I became involved in a quarrel with the young lady because I would not compose a solo for her instrument. From the time when I definitely refused to humour her ambitions she took no more notice of me.
The poet Hebbel must be mentioned among the special acquaintances I made in Vienna during this difficult epoch. As it seemed not unlikely that I should have to make Vienna the scene of my labours for some time, I thought it desirable to become better acquainted with the literary celebrities living there. I prepared myself for meeting Hebbel by taking considerable trouble to read his dramatic pieces beforehand, doing my best to think that they were good and that a closer acquaintance with the author was desirable. I was not to be deterred from my purpose by my consciousness of the great weakness of his poems, although I realised the unnaturalness of his conceptions and the invariably affected and frequently vulgar form of expression. I only visited him once, and did not have a particularly long talk with him even then. I did not find any expression in the poet's personality of the eccentric force which threatens to explode in the figures of his dramas. When I heard, some years later, that Hebbel had died of softening of the bones, I understood why he had affected me so unpleasantly. He talked about the theatrical world in Vienna with the air of an amateur who feels himself neglected but continues to work in a businesslike fashion. I felt no particular desire to repeat my visit, especially after his return call in my absence, when he left a card announcing himself as 'Hebbel, chevalier de plusieurs ordres!'
My old friend Heinrich Laube had now long been established as director of the Royal and Imperial Court Theatre. He had felt it his duty on my previous visit to Vienna to introduce me to the literary celebrities, among whom, being of a practical turn, he counted chiefly journalists and critics. He invited Dr. Hanslick to a big dinner-party, thinking I should be particularly interested in meeting him, and was surprised that I had not a word to say to him. The conclusions Laube drew from this led him to prophesy that I should find it hard to get on in Vienna if I really hoped to make it the sphere of my artistic labours. On my return this time he welcomed me simply as an old friend, and begged me to dine with him as often as I cared to come. He was a passionate sportsman, and was able to provide the luxury of fresh game for his table. I did not avail myself very often of this invitation, however, as the conversation, which was inspired solely by the dull business routine of the stage, did not attract me. After dinner a few actors and literary men would come in for coffee and cigars, sitting at a large table where Laube's wife generally held her court, while Laube himself enjoyed his rest and his cigar in silence. Frau Laube had consented to become Theatre Directrice solely to please her husband, and now thought herself obliged to make long and careful speeches about things of which she had no understanding whatever. The only pleasure I had was in renewed glimpses of the good-nature which I had admired in her of old; for instance, when none of the company dared to oppose her, and I intervened with some frank criticism, she usually accepted it with unreserved merriment. To her and her husband I probably seemed a good-natured sort of fool and nothing more, for my conversation was generally in a joking strain, as I was utterly indifferent to their earnestness. In fact, when I gave my concerts in Vienna later on, Frau Laube remarked with the most friendly air of surprise that I was quite a good conductor, contrary to what she had expected after reading some newspaper report or other.
For one thing, Laube's practical knowledge was not without importance, as he could tell me all about the character of the chief inspectors of the Royal and Imperial Court Theatre. It now transpired that the Imperial Councillor, von Raymond, was a most important personage, and the aged Count Lanckoronski, the Lord High Marshall, who in other respects was extremely tenacious of his authority, could not trust himself to come to any decision in matters of finance without consulting this exceedingly competent man.
Raymond himself, whom I soon got to know and regard as a model of ignorance, took fright and felt bound to withhold his consent to my performance of Tristan, mainly on account of the Vienna papers, which always ran me down and scoffed at my proposal. Officially I was referred to the actual manager of the Opera, Herr Salvi, who had formerly been the singing-master of a lady- in-waiting to the Grand Duchess Sophia. He was an absolutely incapable and ignorant man, who was obliged to pretend in front of me that, according to the command of the supreme authorities, nothing lay so near his heart as the furtherance of the performance of Tristan. Accordingly he tried by perpetual expressions of zeal and goodwill to conceal the increasing spirit of doubt and hesitation with which even the staff was imbued.
I found out the state of affairs one day when a company of our singers was invited with me to the country house of a certain Herr Dumba, who was introduced to me as a most enthusiastic well- wisher. Herr Ander had taken the score of Tristan with him, as if to show that he could not part with it for a single day. Frau Dustmann grew very angry about it, and accused Ander of trying to impose upon me by playing the hypocrite; for he knew as well as any one else that he would never sing that part, and that the management was only awaiting a chance of preventing the performance of Tristan in some way or other, and then laying the blame on her shoulders. Salvi tried most zealously to interfere in these extremely awkward revelations. He recommended me to choose the tenor Walter, and as I objected on the ground of my antipathy to the man, he next referred me to certain foreign singers whom he was quite ready to approach.
As a matter of fact, we tried a few outside players of whom the most promising was a certain Signor Morini, and I really felt so depressed and so desirous of furthering my work at any price that I attended a performance of Luzia by Donizetti with my friend Cornelius to see if I could extract from him a favourable judgment of the singer. Cornelius, who was apparently absorbed in listening, whilst I attentively watched him, suddenly started up in a passion and exclaimed, 'Horrible! horrible!' which made us both laugh so heartily that we soon left the theatre in quite a cheerful frame of mind.
At last I carried on my negotiations with the conductor Heinrich Esser alone, as he was apparently the only honest man in the management. Although he found Tristan very difficult, yet he worked at it with great earnestness, and never really gave up the hope of making a performance possible, if only I would accept Walter as the tenor; but, in spite of my persistent refusal to make use of such help, we always remained good friends. As he, like myself, was a keen walker, we often explored the neighbourhood of Vienna, and our conversations during these expeditions were enthusiastic on my part and thoroughly honest and serious on his.
Whilst these Tristan matters were running their weary course like a chronic disease, whose outcome it is impossible to foresee, Standhartner returned at the end of September with his family. Consequently the next thing I had to do was to look out for a residence, which I chose in the Hotel Kaiserin Elizabeth. Through my cordial intercourse with the family of this friend I became quite intimate not only with his wife, but also with her three sons and a daughter by her first marriage, and a younger daughter by the second marriage with Standhartner. On looking back upon my former residence in my friend's house, I greatly missed the presence and kindly care bestowed upon me by his niece Seraphine, whom I have already mentioned, as well as her untiring thoughtfulness and pleasant, amusing companionship. On account of her natty figure and hair carefully curled a I'enfant, I had given her the name of 'The Doll.' Now I had to look after myself in the dull room of the hotel, and the expense of my living increased considerably. I remember at that time that I had only received twenty-five or thirty louis d'or for Tannhauser from Brunswick. On the other hand, Minna sent me from Dresden a few leaves of the silver-spangled wreath presented by some of her friends as a souvenir of her silver wedding-day, which she had celebrated on the 24th of November. I could hardly wonder that there was no lack of bitter reproach on her part when sending me this gift; however, I tried to inspire her with the hope of having a golden wedding. For the present, seeing that I was staying without any object in an expensive Viennese hotel, I did my utmost to secure a chance of performing Tristan. First I turned to Tichatschek in Dresden, but obtained no promise from him. I then had recourse to Schnorr, with a similar result, and I was at last obliged to acknowledge that my affairs were in a bad way. Of this I made no secret in my occasional communications to the Wesendoncks, who, apparently to cheer me up, invited me to meet them in Venice, where they were just going for a pleasure trip. Heaven knows what my intention was as I started off in a casual sort of way by train, first to Trieste and then by steamer (which did not agree with me at all) to Venice, where I again put up in my little room at the Hotel Danieli.
My friends, whom I found in very flourishing circumstances, seemed to be revelling in the pictures, and fully expected that a participation in their enjoyment would drive away my 'blues.' They seemed to have no desire to realise my position in Vienna. Indeed, after the ill-success of my Paris under-taking, entered upon with such glorious anticipations, I had learned to recognise among most of my friends a tacitly submissive abandonment of all hope for my future success.
Wesendonck, who always went about armed with huge field-glasses, and was ever ready for sight-seeing, only once took me with him to see the Academy of Arts, a building which on my former visit to Venice I had only known from the outside. In spite of all my indifference, I must confess that the 'Assumption of the Virgin' by Titian exercised a most sublime influence over me, so that, as soon as I realised its conception, my old powers revived within me, as though by a sudden flash of inspiration.
I determined at once on the composition of the Meistersinger.
After a frugal dinner with my old acquaintances Tessarin and the Wesendoncks, whom I invited to the Albergo San Alarco, and once more exchanging friendly greetings with Luigia, my former attendant at the Palazzo Giustiniani, to the astonishment of my friends I suddenly left Venice. I had spent four dreary days there, and now started by train on my dull journey to Vienna, following the roundabout overland route. It was during this journey that the music of the Meistersinger first dawned on my mind, in which I still retained the libretto as I had originally conceived it. With the utmost distinctness I at once composed the principal part of the Overture in C major.
Under the influence of these last impressions I arrived in Vienna in a very cheerful frame of mind. I at once announced my return to Cornelius by sending him a small Venetian gondola, which I had bought for him in Venice, and to which I added a canzona written with nonsensical Italian words. The communication of my plan for the immediate composition of the Meistersinger made him almost frantic with delight, and until my departure from Vienna he remained in a state of delirious excitement.
I urged my friend to procure me material for mastering the subject of the Meistersinger. My first idea was to make a thorough study of Grimm's controversy on the Song of the Meistersinger; and the next question was how to get hold of old Wagenseil's Nuremberg Chronicle. Cornelius accompanied me to the Imperial Library, but in order to obtain a loan of this book, which we were fortunate enough to find, my friend was obliged to visit Baron Munch-Bellinghausen (Halm), a visit which he described to me as very disagreeable. I remained at my hotel, eagerly making extracts of portions of the Chronicle, which to the astonishment of the ignorant I appropriated for my libretto.
But my most urgent task was to secure some means of livelihood during the composition of my work. I applied first to the music publisher Schott at Mayence, to whom I offered the Meistersinger if he would make me the necessary advance. Being animated by the desire to provide myself with money for as long a time as possible, I offered him not only the literary rights, but also the rights of performance for my work, for the sum of twenty thousand francs. A telegram from Schott containing an absolute refusal at once destroyed all hope. As I was now obliged to think of other means, I decided to turn to Berlin. Bulow, who was always kindly exerting himself on my behalf, had hinted at the possibility of being able to raise a considerable sum of money there by means of a concert, which I should conduct; and as I was at the same time longing to find a home amongst friends, Berlin seemed to beckon me as a last refuge. At noon, just before the evening of my intended departure, a letter came from Schott, following on his telegram of refusal, which certainly held out some more consoling prospect. He offered to undertake the publication of the pianoforte edition of the Walkure at once and to advance me three thousand marks to be deducted from a future account. The joy of Cornelius at what he called the salvation of the Meistersinger knew no bounds. From Berlin Bulow, in great indignation and evident low spirits, wrote to me of his dreadful experiences in attempting to organise my concert. Herr von Hulsen declared that he would not countenance my visit to Berlin, while as to giving a concert at the great Kroll Restaurant, Bulow found after much deliberation that it would be quite impracticable.
Whilst I was busily engaged on a detailed scenic sketch of the Meistersinger, the arrival of Prince and Princess Metternich in Vienna seemed to create a favourable diversion on my behalf.
The concern expressed by my Paris patrons about me and my position was undoubtedly real; therefore, in order to show myself gratefully disposed towards them, I induced the management of the Opera to allow me to invite their splendid orchestra for a few hours one morning to play some selections from Tristan in the theatre by way of rehearsal. Both the orchestra and Frau Dustmann were quite ready to grant my request in the most friendly manner, and Princess Metternich, with some of her acquaintances, was invited to this rehearsal. With the orchestra we played through two of the principal selections, namely, the prelude to the first act, and the beginning of the second act, as far as the middle, while the singing part was sustained by Frau Dustmann, the whole being so brilliantly executed that I felt fully justified in believing I had created a most excellent impression. Herr Ander, too, had appeared on the scene, but without knowing a single note of the music or attempting to sing it. Both my princely friends, as well as Fraulein Couqui, the premiere danseuse, who singularly enough had attended the rehearsal on the sly, overwhelmed me with enthusiastic marks of admiration. Hearing of my ardent desire for retirement in order to go on with the composition of a new work, the Metternichs one day suggested that they were in a position to offer me just such a quiet retreat in Paris. The Prince, who had now completely arranged his spacious embassy, could place at my disposal a pleasant suite of rooms looking on to a quiet garden, just like the one I had found in the Prussian embassy. My Erard was still in Paris, and if I could arrange to go there at the end of the year, I should find everything ready for me to begin my work. With unconcealed joy I most gratefully accepted this kind invitation, and my only care now was so to arrange my affairs that I could take my departure from Vienna and effect my removal to Paris in a proper manner. The arrangement that had been made through Standhartner's mediation, that the management should pay me a part of the stipulated fee for Tristan, would be a great help in this. But as I was only to get one thousand marks, and even this was to be subject to so many clauses and conditions as to suggest a desire to renounce the whole transaction, I at once rejected the offer. This fact, however, did not prevent the press, which was always in touch with the theatrical management, from publishing that I had accepted an indemnity for the non- performance of Tristan. Fortunately I was able to protest against this calumny by producing proof of what I had actually done in the matter. Meanwhile, the negotiations with Schott dragged out to some length, because I would not agree at present to his suggestions about the Walkure. I adhered to my first offer of a new opera, the Meistersinger, and at last received three thousand marks as an instalment on this work. As soon as I had received the cheque, I packed up my things, when a telegram from Princess Metternich reached me, in which she begged of me to put off my departure until the 1st of January. I decided not give up my plan, being anxious to get away from Vienna, so I determined to go straight to Mayence to pursue further negotiations with Schott. My leavetaking at the station was made particularly gay by Cornelius, who whispered to me with mysterious enthusiasm a stanza of 'Sachs' which I had communicated to him. This was the verse:
'Der Vogel der heut' sang, Dem war der Schnabel hold gewachsen; Ward auch den Meistern dabei bang, Gar wohl gefiel er doch Hans Sachsen.' [Footnote: 'The bird who sang this morn From Nature's self had learned his singing; Masters that song may scorn, For aye Hans Sachs will hear it singing.' (Translation of the Meistersinger, by Frederick Jameson.) – Editor.]
In Mayence I got to know the Schott family, with whom I had only had a casual acquaintance in Paris, more intimately. The young musician Weisheimer, who was just then beginning his career as musical director at the local theatre, was a daily visitor at their house. At one of our dinners another young man, Stadl, a lawyer, proposed a remarkable toast in my honour in a most eloquent and astonishing speech. Notwithstanding all this I had to recognise that in Franz Schott I was dealing with a very singular man, and our negotiations proceeded with extraordinary difficulty. I insisted emphatically on carrying out my first proposal, namely, that he should provide me for two successive years with funds necessary for the undisturbed execution of my work. He excused his unwillingness to do this by pretending it was painful to his feelings to drive a bargain with a man like myself by purchasing my work for a certain sum of money, including also the profits of my author's rights in the theatrical performances; that, in a word, he was a music publisher, and did not want to be anything else. I represented to him that he need only advance me the necessary amount in proper form, and that I would guarantee him the repayment of that proportion of it which might be considered due payment for the literary property, out of my future theatrical takings, which would thus be his security.
After a long time he agreed to make advances on 'musical compositions still to be delivered,' and to this suggestion I gladly acceded, insisting, however, that I must be able to depend on a total gradual payment of twenty thousand francs. As, after settling my Vienna hotel bill, I was in immediate want of money, Schott gave me a draft on Paris. From that city I now received a letter from Princess Metternich, which mystified me, inasmuch as it merely announced the sudden death of her mother, Countess Sandor, and the consequent change in her family circumstances. Once more I deliberated whether it would not be better, after all, to take at random a modest lodging in or near Karlsruhe, which in time might develop into a peaceful and permanent dwelling. Owing to my difficulty in providing Minna's allowance, which according to our agreement was three thousand marks a year, it struck me as more reasonable and certainly more economical to ask my wife to share my home. But a letter which just then reached me from her, and the main contents of which were nothing less than an attempt to incite me against my own friends, scared me away from any thought of reunion with her, and determined me to adhere to my Paris plans and keep as far away from her as possible.
So towards the middle of December I started for Paris, where I alighted at the dingy-looking Hotel Voltaire, situated on the quay of the same name, and took a very modest room with a pleasant outlook. Here I wished to remain unrecognised (preparing myself meanwhile for my work) until I could present myself to Princess Metternich at the beginning of the new year, according to her wish. In order not to embarrass the Metternich's friends, Pourtales and Hatzfeld, I pretended that I was not in Paris, and looked up only those of my old acquaintances who did not know these gentlemen, such as Truinet, Gasperini, Flaxland, and the painter Czermak. I met Truinet and his father regularly at supper time in the Taverne Anglaise, to which I used to make my way unobserved through the streets at dusk. One day, on opening one of the papers there I read the news of the death of Count Pourtales. My grief was great, and I felt particularly sorry that, out of my singular regard for the Metternichs, I had neglected to visit this man who had been a real friend to me. I at once called on Count Hatzfeld, who confirmed the sad news and told me the circumstances of the sudden death, which was the result of heart disease, the existence of which the doctor had not discovered till the very last moment. At the same time I learned the true significance of the events which had taken place at the Hotel Metternich. The death of Countess Sandor, of which Princess Pauline had informed me, had produced the following developments: the Count, who was the famous Hungarian madman, had up to that time, in the general interest of the family, been strictly guarded by his wife as an invalid. At her death the family lived in fear of the most terrible disturbances from her husband, now no longer under control, and the Metternichs therefore thought it necessary to take him at once to Paris, and keep him there under proper supervision. For that purpose the Princess found that the only suitable suite of apartments at her command was the one previously offered to me. I at once saw it was useless to think any more of taking up my residence at the Austrian embassy, and I was left to reflect on the strange freak of fortune that had again cast me adrift in this ill-omened Paris.
At first the only course open to me was to stay in my inexpensive lodging in the Hotel Voltaire until I had finished the libretto of the Meistersinger, and meanwhile set to work to find the refuge so earnestly sought for the completion of my new work. It was not an easy matter; my name and person, which everybody involuntarily regarded in the doubtful light of my Paris failure, seemed surrounded by a cloud of mist, which made me unrecognisable even to my old friends. The Olliviers also appeared to receive me with an air of distrust; at any rate, they thought it very strange to see me again so soon in Paris. I was obliged to explain the extraordinary circumstances that had brought me back, and told them that I did not contemplate a long stay. Apart from this probably deceptive impression, I soon noticed the great change that had taken place in the home life of the family. The grandmother was laid up with a broken leg, which at her age was incurable. Ollivier had taken her into his very small flat for more efficient nursing and care, and we all met for dinner at her bedside in the tiny room. Blandine had greatly changed since the previous summer, and wore a sad and serious expression, and I fancied that she was enceinte. Emile, although dry and superficial, was the only one who gave me any sound advice. When the fellow Lindau sent me a letter through his lawyer demanding the compensation awarded him by the law for his imaginary co-operation in the translation of Tannhauser, all that Emile said on reading the letter was, 'Ne repondez pas,' and his advice proved as useful as it was easy to follow, for I never heard anything more of the matter. I sorrowfully made up my mind not to trouble Ollivier any more, and it was with an inexpressibly sad look that Blandine and I parted.
With Czermak, on the other hand, I entered into almost daily intercourse. I used to join him and the Truinet family of an evening at the Taverne Angiaise, or some other equally cheap restaurants which we hunted out. Afterwards we generally went to one of the smaller theatres, which, owing to pressure of work, I had not troubled about on my former visits. The best of them all was the Gymnase, where all the pieces were good and played by an excellent company. Of these pieces a particularly tender and touching one-act play called Je dine chez ma Mere remains in my memory. In the Theatre du Palais Royal, where things were not now so refined as formerly, and also in the Theatre Dejazet, I recognised the prototypes of all the jokes with which, in spite of poor elaboration and unsuitable localisation, the German public is being entertained all the year round. Besides this I occasionally dined with the Flaxland family, who still refused to despair of my eventual success with the Parisians. For the present my Paris publisher continued to issue the Fliegender Hollander as well as Rienzi, for which he paid me tifleen hundred francs as a small fee, which I had not bargained for on the first edition.
The cause of the almost cheerful complacency with which I managed to regard my adverse situation in Paris, and which enabled me afterwards to look back on it as a pleasant memory, was that my libretto of the Meistersinger daily increased its swelling volume of rhyme. How could I help being filled with facetious thoughts, when on raising my eyes from the paper, after meditating upon the quaint verses and sayings of my Nuremberg Meistersinger, I gazed from the third-floor window of my hotel on the tremendous crowds passing along the quays and over the numerous bridges, and enjoyed a prospect embracing the Tuileries, the Louvre, and even the Hotel de Ville!
I had already got far on into the first act when the momentous New Year's Day of 1862 arrived, and I paid my long-delayed visit to Princess Metternich. I found her very naturally embarrassed, but I quite cheerfully accepted her assurances of regret at being obliged to withdraw her invitation owing to circumstances with which I was already acquainted, and I did my utmost to reassure her. I also begged Count Hatzfeld to inform me when Countess Pourtales would feel equal to receiving me.
Thus through the whole month of January I continued working on the Meistersinger libretto, and completed it in exactly thirty days. The melody for the fragment of Sachs's poem on the Reformation, with which I make my characters in the last act greet their beloved master, occurred to me on the way to the Taverne Anglaise, whilst strolling through the galleries of the Palais Royal. There I found Truinet already waiting for me, and asked him to give me a scrap of paper and a pencil to jot down my melody, which I quietly hummed over to him at the time. I usually accompanied him and his father along the boulevards to his flat in the Faubourg St. Honore, and on that evening he could do nothing but exclaim, 'Mais, quelle gaite d'esprit, cher maitre!'
The nearer my work approached its termination, the more earnestly had I to think about a place of abode. I still imagined that something similar to what I had lost by Liszt's abandonment of the Altenburg was in store for me. I now remembered that in the previous year I had received a most pressing invitation from Mme. Street, to pay her and her father a long visit in Brussels; on the strength of which I wrote to the lady and asked if she could put me up for a time without any ceremony. She was en desolation at being obliged to deny my wish. I next turned to Cosima, who was in Berlin, with a similar request, at which she seemed to be quite alarmed, but I quite understood the reason of this when, on visiting Berlin later on, I saw the style of Bulow's quarters. It struck me as very strange, on the other hand, that my brother-in- law Avenarius, who, I heard, was very comfortably settled in Berlin, begged me most earnestly to go to him, and judge for myself whether I could not pay him a long visit. My sister Cecilia, however, forbade me to take Minna there, although she thought she could find her a lodging in the immediate neighbourhood if she wanted to visit Berlin. Unfortunately for herself, poor Minna could find nothing better to do than to write me a furious letter about my sister's cruel behaviour to her, so the possibility of a renewal of our old squabbles deterred me at once from accepting my brother-in-law's proposal. At last I bethought me of looking out for a quiet retreat in the neighbourhood of Mayence, under the financial protection of Schott. He had spoken to me about a pretty estate there belonging to the young Baron von Hornstein. I thought I was conferring an honour upon the latter when I wrote to him at Munich asking permission to take up my abode for a time at his place in the Rhine district, and was therefore greatly perplexed when I received an answer expressing terror at my suggestion. I now determined to go at once to Mayence, and ordered all our furniture and household goods, which had been stored in Paris for nearly a year, to be sent there. Before leaving Paris, after coming to this decision, I had the consolation of receiving a sublime exhortation to face everything with resignation. I had previously informed Frau Wesendonck of my situation and the chief source of my trouble, though of course only as one writes to a sympathetic friend; she answered by sending me a small letter- weight of cast-iron which she had bought for me in Venice. It represented the lion of San Marco with his paw on the book, and was intended to admonish me to imitate this lion in all things. On the other hand, Countess Pourtales granted me the privilege of another visit to her house. In spite of her mourning, this lady did not wish to leave her sincere interest in me unexpressed on account of her sad bereavement; and when I told her what I was then doing, she asked to see my libretto. On my assuring her that in her present frame of mind she could not enter into the lively character of my Meistersinger, she kindly expressed a great wish to hear me read it, and invited me to spend an evening with her. She was the first person to whom I had the opportunity of reading my now completed work, and it made such a lively impression upon us both, that we were many times compelled to burst out into fits of hearty laughter.
On the evening of my departure on the first of February, I invited my friends Gasperini, Czermak, and the Truinets to a farewell meal in my hotel. All were in capital spirits, and my good-humour enhanced the general cheerfulness, although no one quite understood what connection it could have with the subject on which I had just completed a libretto, and from the performance of which I anticipated so much.
In my anxiety to choose a suitable residence, which was now so necessary to me, I directed my steps once more to Karlsruhe. I was again received in the kindest manner by the Grand Duke and Duchess, who inquired about my future plans. It turned out, however, that the residence I so earnestly desired could not be provided for me in Karlsruhe. I was much struck by the sympathetic concern of the Grand Duke as to how I could meet the cost of my arduous life, or even my travelling expenses. I cheerfully endeavoured to set his mind at rest by telling him of the contract I had made with Schott, who had bound himself to provide me with the necessary funds in the form of advances on my Meistersinger. This seemed to reassure him. Later on I heard from Alwine Frommann that the Grand Duke had once said that I had been somewhat cold towards him, considering that he had been kind enough to place his purse at my disposal. But I was certainly not conscious of his having done so. The only point raised in our discussion had been whether I should go to Karlsruhe again to rehearse one of my operas there, possibly Lohengrin, and conduct it in person.
At any rate I started for Mayence, which I reached on the 4th February, and found the whole place flooded. Owing to the early breaking up of the ice, the Rhine had overflowed its banks to an unusual extent, and I only reached Schott's house at some considerable risk. Nevertheless, I had already arranged to read the Meistersinger on the evening of the 5th of that month, and had even made Cornelius promise to come from Vienna, and had sent him a hundred francs from Paris for that purpose. I had not received any answer from him, and as I now learned that the floods had spread to all the river districts of Germany, and impeded the railway traffic, I had already ceased to count upon him. I waited until the last moment and – in fact, just as the clock struck seven – Cornelius appeared. He had met with all sorts of adventures, had even lost his overcoat on the way, and reached his sister's house in a half-frozen condition only a few hours before. The reading of my libretto put us all into excellent humour, but I was very sorry I could not shake Cornelius's determination to start on his return journey the next day. He wished me to understand that his sole object in coming to Mayence was for this one reading of the Meistersinger, and as a matter of fact, in spite of floods and floating ice, he left for Vienna on the following day.
As we had already arranged, I began in company with Schott to search for a residence on the opposite bank of the Rhine. We had had Biebrich in our mind's eye; but as nothing suitable seemed to present itself there, we thought of Wiesbaden. At last I decided to stay at the 'Europaischer Hof' at Biebrich, and continue my search from there. As I had always been most particular to keep aloof as far as possible from the noise of music, I decided to rent a small but very suitable flat in a large summer residence newly built by the architect Frickhofer, and situated close to the Rhine. I was obliged to await the arrival of my furniture and household effects from Paris before I could get it in order. At last they came, and at endless trouble and expense were duly unloaded at the Biebrich custom-house, where I took possession only of those things which I required most.
I kept only what was absolutely necessary in Biebrich, intending to send the greater part to my wife in Dresden. I had already informed Minna of this, whereupon she immediately assumed that with my clumsy unpacking I should lose half the things or ruin them all. About a week after I had fairly settled down with my newly arrived Erard grand, Minna suddenly appeared in Biebrich. At first I felt nothing but sincere pleasure at her healthy appearance and untiring energy in the practical management of affairs, and even thought the best thing I could do was to let her remain with me. Unfortunately my good resolutions did not last long, as the old scenes were soon renewed. When we went to the custom-house, intending to separate her things from mine, she could not contain her anger that I had not waited for her arrival before removing on my own account the articles I required for myself. Nevertheless, she thought it only proper that I should be provided with certain household effects, and gave me four sets of knives, forks and spoons, a few cups and saucers, with plates to match. She then superintended the packing of the remainder, which was not inconsiderable, and, after arranging everything to her satisfaction, took her departure to Dresden a week later.
She now flattered herself that her establishment there would be sufficiently furnished to receive me, as she hoped, very shortly. With this idea she had taken the necessary steps with regard to the superior government officials, and these latter had been successful in obtaining a declaration from the minister that I might now send in a formal petition to the King to grant me an amnesty, and that nothing would then stand in the way of my return to Dresden.
I deliberated with considerable hesitation as to what I should do in this matter. Minna's presence had greatly increased the mental discord arising from my recent anxieties. Rough weather, defective stoves, my badly managed household, and my unexpectedly heavy expenses, particularly for Minna's establishment, all combined to mar the pleasure I had taken in pursuing the work I had started at the Hotel Voltaire. Presumably to distract my thoughts, the Schott family invited me to witness a performance of Rienzi at Darmstadt, with Niemann in the title-role. The ex- minister, Herr von Dalwigk, fearing that a demonstration at the theatre in my favour in the presence of the Grand Duke, might wound the latter's susceptibilities, introduced himself to me at the station and accompanied me to his own box, where he cleverly thought he could play the part of presenting me to the public on behalf of the Grand Duke. Thus everything went off pleasantly. The performance itself, in which Niemann played one of his best parts, interested me greatly; I also noticed that they cut out as much of the opera as they could, presumably in deference to the tastes of the Grand Duke, so as to extend the ballet as much as possible by repeating the lighter parts of it.
From this excursion I had again to return home through the floating ice on the Rhine. As I was still in very low spirits, I tried to introduce a few comforts into my home, and for this purpose engaged a maid-servant to prepare my breakfast; my other meals I took at the 'Europaischer Hof.'
When I found, however, that I could not recover my working mood, and feeling somewhat restless, I offered to redeem my promise and pay another visit to the Grand Duke of Baden, suggesting that I should give him a reading of the Meistersinger. The Grand Duke replied by a very kind telegram signed by himself, in response to which I went to Karlsruhe on the 7th March and read my manuscript to him and his wife. A drawing-room had been specially selected for this reading, in which hung a great historical picture by my old friend Pecht, portraying Goethe as a young man reading the first fragments of his Faust before the Grand Duke's ancestors. My work received very kind attention, and at the conclusion of the reading I was exceedingly pleased to hear the Grand Duchess recommend me particularly to find a suitable musical setting for the excellent part of Pogner, which was a friendly admission of regret that a citizen should be more zealous in the interests of art than many a prince. A performance of Lohengrin, under my conductorship, was once more discussed, and I was advised to make fresh terms with Eduard Devrient. Unfortunately the latter made a terrible impression on me by his production of Tannhauser at the theatre. I was obliged to witness this performance seated by his side, and was astonished to realise that this 'Dramaturge,' whom I had hitherto so highly recommended, had now sunk to the most vulgar practices of the theatrical profession. To my amazement at the monstrous mistakes made in the performance, he replied, with great surprise and a certain haughty indignation, that he could not understand why I made so much fuss about such trifles, as I must know very well that in theatres it was impossible to do otherwise. Nevertheless, a model performance of Lohengrin was arranged for the following summer, with the co-operation of Herr Schnorr and his wife.
A much pleasanter impression was made upon me by a play I saw at the Frankfort theatre, where, in passing through that town, I saw a pretty comedy, in which the delicate and tender acting of Friederike Meyer, the sister of my Vienna singer, Mme. Dustmann, impressed me more than any German acting had ever done. I now began to calculate on the possibility of making suitable friends in the neighbourhood of Biebrich, so as not to be entirely dependent on the Schott family or on my hotel-keeper for society. I had already looked up the Raff family in Wiesbaden, where Frau Raff had an engagement at the court theatre. She was a sister of Emilie Genast, with whom I had been on friendly terms during my stay in Weimar. One excellent piece of information I heard about her was that by extraordinary thrift and good management she had succeeded in raising her husband's position of careless wastefulness to a flourishing and prosperous one. Raff himself, who by his own accounts of his dissipated life under Liszt's patronage, had led me to regard him as an eccentric genius, at once disabused me of this idea when, on a closer acquaintance, I found him an uncommonly uninteresting and insipid man, full of self-conceit, but without any power of taking a wide outlook on the world.
Taking advantage of the prosperous condition to which he had attained, thanks to his wife, he considered he was entitled to patronise me by giving me some friendly advice in regard to my position at the time. He thought it advisable to tell me that I ought in my dramatic compositions to pay more attention to the reality of things, and to illustrate his meaning he pointed to my score of Tristan as an abortion of idealistic extravagances.
In the course of my rambles on foot to Wiesbaden I sometimes liked to call on Raff's wife, a rather insignificant woman, but Raff himself was a person to whom I soon became perfectly indifferent. Still, when he came to know me a little better, he lowered the tone of his sagelike maxims, and even appeared to be rather afraid of my chaffing humour, against the shafts of which he knew he was defenceless.
Wendelin Weisheimer, whom I had known slightly before, often called on me in Biebrich. He was the son of a rich peasant of Osthofen, and to the astonishment of his father refused to give up the musical profession. He was particularly anxious to introduce me to his parent, that I might influence the old man's mind in favour of his son's choice of an artistic career. This involved me in excursions into their district, and I had an opportunity of witnessing young Weisheimer's talent as an orchestral conductor at a performance of Offenbach's Orpheus in the theatre at Mayence, where he had hitherto occupied a subordinate position. I was horrified that my sympathy for this young man should make me descend so low as to be present at such an abomination, and for a long time I could not refrain from letting Weisheimer see the annoyance I felt.
In my search for a more dignified entertainment I wrote to Friedericke Meyer in Frankfort and asked her to let me know when the performance of Calderon's comedy, Das offentliche Geheimniss, would be repeated, as the last time I had seen an announcement of it, I had been too late. She was much pleased at my sympathetic inquiry, and informed me that the comedy was not likely to be revived in the immediate future, but that there was a prospect of Calderon's Don Gutierre being produced. I again paid a visit to Frankfort to see this play, and made the personal acquaintance of this interesting actress for the first time. I had every reason to be highly satisfied with the performance of Calderon's tragedy, although the talented actress who played the leading part was thoroughly successful only in the tenderer passages, her resources being insufficient to depict the more passionate scenes. She told me she very often visited some friends of hers in Mayence, and I followed up this communication by expressing a wish that when doing so she would look me up at Biebrich, to which she replied that I might hope on some future occasion for the fulfilment of my wish.
A grand soiree given by the Schotts to their Mayence acquaintances was the occasion of my making friends with Mathilde Maier, whom Frau Schott, at least so she informed me, had specially selected for her 'cleverness' to be my companion at the supper table; her highly intelligent, sincere manner and her peculiar Mayence dialect distinguished her favourably from the rest of the company; nor was this distinction accompanied by anything outre. I promised to visit her, and thus became acquainted with an idyllic home such as I had never met before. This Mathilde, who was the daughter of a lawyer who had died leaving only a small fortune behind, lived with her mother, two aunts and a sister in a neat little house, while her brother, who was learning business in Paris, was a continual source of trouble to her. Mathilde, with her practical common-sense, attended to the affairs of the whole family, apparently to every one's complete satisfaction. I was received among them with remarkable warmth whenever, in the pursuit of my business, I chanced to come to Mayence. This happened about once a week, and on each occasion I was made to accept their hospitality. But as Mathilde had a large circle of acquaintances, among others an old gentleman in Mayence who had been Schopenhauer's only friend, I frequently met her in other people's houses, as for instance at the Raffs in Wiesbaden. From there she and her old friend Luise Wagner would often accompany me on my way home, and I would sometimes go with them further on the way to Mayence.
These meetings were full of agreeable impressions, to which frequent walks in the beautiful park of Biebrich Castle contributed. The fair season of the year was now approaching, and I was once more seized with a desire for work. As from the balcony of my flat, in a sunset of great splendour, I gazed upon the magnificent spectacle of 'Golden' Mayence, with the majestic Rhine pouring along its outskirts in a glory of light, the prelude to my Meistersinger again suddenly made its presence closely and distinctly felt in my soul. Once before had I seen it rise before me out of a lake of sorrow, like some distant mirage. I proceeded to write down the prelude exactly as it appears to- day in the score, that is, containing the clear outlines of the leading themes of the whole drama. I proceeded at once to continue the composition, intending to allow the remaining scenes to follow in due succession. As I was feeling in a good temper I thought I would like to pay a visit to the Duke of Nassau. He was my neighbour, and I had so often met him on my lonely walks in the park, that I considered it polite to call on him. Unfortunately there was not much to be got out of the interview which took place. He was a very narrow-minded but amiable man, who excused himself for continuing to smoke his cigar in my presence because he could not get on without it, and he thereupon proceeded to describe to me his preference for Italian opera, which I was quite content he should retain. But I had an ulterior motive in trying to prepossess him in my favour. At the back of his park stood a tiny castle of ancient appearance on the borders of a lake. It had grown into a sort of picturesque ruin, and at the time served as a studio for a sculptor. I was filled with a bold desire to acquire this small, half-tumbledown building for the rest of my life; for I had already become a prey to alarming anxiety as to whether I should be able to hold out in the quarters I had so far tenanted, as the greater part of the storey, on which I occupied only two small rooms, had been let to a family for the approaching summer, and I heard that they would enter into possession, armed with a piano. I was soon dissuaded, however, from further attempts to induce the Duke of Nassau to favour my views, for he told me that this little castle, on account of its damp situation, would be thoroughly unhealthy.
Nevertheless, I did not allow myself to be deterred from setting to work to find some lonely little house with a garden, for which I still longed. In the excursions I repeatedly undertook for this purpose I was frequently accompanied not only by Weisheimer but also by Dr. Stadl, the young lawyer who at Schott's house had proposed the charming toast which I have already mentioned. He was an extraordinary man, and I could only explain his very excitable nature by the fact that he was a passionate gambler at the roulette tables in Wiesbaden. He it was who had introduced me to another friend, a practised musician, Dr. Schuler from Wiesbaden. With both these gentlemen I now weighed all the possibilities of acquiring, or at least of discovering, my little castle for the future. On one occasion we visited Bingen with this object, and ascended the celebrated old tower there in which the Emperor Henry IV. was imprisoned long ago. After going for some distance up the rock on which the tower was built, we reached a room on the fourth storey occupying the entire square of the building, with a single projecting window looking out upon the Rhine.
I recognised this room as the ideal of everything I had imagined in the way of a residence for myself. I thought I could arrange for the necessary smaller apartments in the flat by means of curtains, and thus prepare for myself a splendid place of refuge for ever. Stadl and Schuler thought it possible they might help me in the fulfilment of my wishes, as they were both acquainted with the proprietor of this ruin. Shortly afterwards, in fact, they informed me that the owner had no objection to letting me this large room at a low rent, but at the same time they pointed out the utter impracticability of carrying out my plan; nobody, they said, would be either able or willing to act as my servant there, for, amongst other things, there was no well, and the only water obtainable was from a cistern lying at a frightful depth down in the keep, and even this was not good. Under such circumstances it did not require more than one such obstacle to deter me from the pursuit of such an extravagant scheme. I had a similar experience with a property in Rheingau belonging to Count Schonborn. My attention had been drawn to it, because it was unoccupied by the proprietor. Here I certainly found a number of empty rooms, out of which I should have been able to arrange something suitable for my purpose. After obtaining further details from the land agent, who wrote on my behalf to Count Schonborn, I had to content myself with a refusal.
A strange incident that occurred about this time seriously threatened to interrupt me to some extent in the work I had begun. Friederike Meyer kept her promise and called on me one afternoon on her return from her usual excursion to Mayence. She was accompanied by a lady friend. Shortly after her arrival she was suddenly overwhelmed with fear, and to the terror of all present declared she was afraid she had caught scarlet fever. Her condition soon became alarming, and she had to find accommodation immediately in the 'Europaischer Hof' hotel and send for a doctor. The certainty with which she had immediately recognised the symptoms of a disease, which in most cases can only be caught from children, could not fail to impress me strangely. But my amazement was increased when on the following morning, at a very early hour, Herr von Guaita, the manager of the Frankfort theatre, who had heard of her illness, paid a visit to the patient and expressed for her an anxiety, the intensity of which it was impossible to ascribe entirely to his interest as a theatrical manager. He took Friederike at once under his protection, and treated her with the greatest care, thus relieving me from the pangs of anxiety aroused by this strange case. I spent some time with Herr von Guaita, talking with him about the possibility of producing one of my operas in Frankfort. On the second day I was present when the sick lady was conveyed to the railway station by Guaita, who evinced towards her what appeared to me the most tender paternal solicitude. Soon after this, Herr Burde (the husband of Madame Ney, a famous singer), who was at that time an actor at the Frankfort theatre, paid me a call. This gentleman, with whom amongst other things I discussed Friederike Meyer's talents, informed me that she was supposed to be the mistress of Herr von Guaita, a man who was held in great respect in the town on account of his noble rank, and that he had presented her with a house in which she was now living. As Herr von Guaita had not made an agreeable impression upon me, but on the contrary had struck me as a strange creature, this news filled me with a certain uneasiness. My other acquaintances who lived near my place of refuge in Biebrich were kind and friendly when, on the evening of my birthday on the 22nd of May, I entertained this little company in my flat. Mathilde Maier with her sister and her lady friend were very clever in utilising my small stock of crockery, and in a certain sense she did the honours as mistress of the house.
But my peace of mind was soon disturbed by an interchange of letters with Minna, which grew more and more unsatisfactory. I had settled her in Dresden, but wanted to spare her the humiliation of a permanent separation from me. In pursuance of this idea I had at last found myself compelled to adopt the plan she had initiated, by communicating with the Saxon Minister of Justice; and I finally petitioned for a complete amnesty from the government, and received permission to settle in Dresden. Minna now thought herself authorised to take a large flat, in which it would be easy to arrange the furniture allotted to her, assuming that after a little while I would share the abode with her, at least periodically. I had to try to meet cheerfully her demands for the wherewithal to carry out her wishes, and especially to procure the two thousand seven hundred marks she required for the purpose. The more calmly I acted in this matter, the more deeply she seemed to be offended by the quiet frigidity of my letters. Reproaches for supposed injuries in the past and recriminations of every kind now poured in from her faster than ever. At last I turned to my old friend Pusinelli. Out of affection for me he had always been a loyal helper of my intractable spouse. Through his mediation I now prescribed the strong medicine which my sister Clara a short while ago had recommended as the best remedy for the patient, and asked him to impress upon Minna the necessity for a legal separation. It seemed to be no easy task for my poor friend to carry out this proposal in earnest, but he had been asked to do it, and obeyed. He informed me that she was very much alarmed, but that she definitely refused to discuss an amicable separation, and, as my sister had foreseen, Minna's conduct now changed in a very striking manner; she ceased to annoy me and seemed to realise her position and abide by it. To relieve her heart trouble, Pusinelli had prescribed for her a cure at Reichenhall. I obtained the money for this, and apparently she spent the summer in tolerable spirits in the very place in which a year ago I had met Cosima undergoing a cure.
Once more I turned to my work, to which I always had recourse as the best means of raising my spirits so soon as interruptions were removed. One night I was disturbed by a strange event. The evening had been pleasant, and I had sketched out the pretty theme for Pogner's Anrede, 'Das schone Fest Johannistag,' etc., when, while I was dozing off and still had this tune floating in my mind, I was suddenly awakened to full consciousness by an unrestrained outburst of a woman's laughter above my room. This laughter, growing madder and madder, at last turned into a horrible whimpering and frightful howling. I sprang out of bed in a terrified condition, to discover that the sound proceeded from my servant Lieschen, who had been attacked with hysterical convulsions as she lay in bed in the room overhead. My host's maid went to help her, and a doctor was summoned. While I was horrified at the thought that the girl would soon die, I could not help wondering at the curious tranquillity of the others who were present. I was told that such fits were of common occurrence in young girls, especially after dances. Without heeding this, I was riveted to the spot for a long time by the spectacle, with the horrible symptoms it presented. Several times I saw what resembled a childish fit of merriment pass, like the ebb and flow of the tide, through all the different stages, up to the most impudent laughter, and then to what seemed like the screams of the damned in torture. When the disturbance had somewhat subsided, I went to bed again, and once more Pogner's 'Johannistag' rose to my memory, and gradually banished the fearful impressions that I had undergone.
One day, when I was watching young Stadl at the gambling-table in Wiesbaden, I thought he was rather like the poor servant-girl. I had taken coffee with him and Weisheimer in the Kur garden, and we had enjoyed one another's company, when Stadl disappeared for a time. Weisheimer led me to the gambling-table to find him. Seldom have I witnessed a more horrible change of expression than that now stamped on the man who was a prey to the gambling mania. As a demon had possessed poor Lieschen, so now a demon possessed this man. As folk say, the devils 'pursued their evil lusts in him.' No appeal, no humiliating admonitions could prevail upon the man tortured by his losses in the game to summon up his moral powers. As I remembered my own experiences of the gambling passion, to which I had succumbed for a time when I was a youth, I spoke to young Weisheimer on the subject, and offered to show him how I was not afraid to make a stake on pure chance, but that I had no belief in my luck. When a new round of roulette began, I said to him in a voice of quiet certainty, 'Number 11 will win'; and it did. I added fuel to the fire of his astonishment at this stroke of good luck by predicting Number 27 for the next round. Certainly I remember being overcome by a spell as I spoke, and my number was in fact again victorious. My young friend was now in a state of such astonishment, that he vehemently urged me to stake something on the numbers which I foretold. Again I cannot but call to mind the curious, quiet feeling of being spellbound which possessed me as I said, 'As soon as I introduce my own personal interests into the game, my gift of prophecy will disappear at once.' I then drew him away from the gambling-table, and we took our way back to Biebrich in a fine sunset.
I now came into very painful relations with poor Friederike Meyer. She wrote and told me of her recovery and requested me to visit her, because she felt it her duty to apologise to me for the trouble in which she had involved me. As the short drive to Frankfort often helped to entertain me and distract my thoughts, I gladly fulfilled her wishes, and found her in a state of convalescence but still weak, and obviously preoccupied with the effort to fortify my mind against all disagreeable surmises about herself. She said that Herr von Guaita was like an anxious, almost hypersensitive father to her. She told me that she was very young when she left her family, and that with her sister Luise in particular she had severed all connection. She had thus come quite friendless to Frankfort, where the chance protection of Herr von Guaita, a man of mature age, had been very welcome to her. Unfortunately she had to suffer much that was painful under this arrangement, for she was most bitterly persecuted, chiefly on the score of her reputation, by her patron's family, who feared he might want to marry her. As she told me this, I could not refrain from drawing her attention to some of the consequences of the antagonism I had noticed, and I went so far as to speak of the house which people said had been given her as a present. This seemed to produce an extraordinary effect upon Friederike, who was still an invalid. She expressed the greatest annoyance at these rumours, although, as she admitted, she had long been obliged to suspect that slander of this kind would be disseminated about her; more than once she had considered the advisability of giving up the Frankfort stage, and now she was more determined than ever to do so. I saw nothing in her demeanour to shake my confidence in the truth of her story; moreover, as Herr von Guaita became more and more unintelligible to me both as a man and in the light of his incredible conduct on the occasion of Friederike's illness, my attitude towards this highly gifted girl was henceforth unconditionally on the side of her interests, which were being prejudiced by an obvious injustice. To facilitate her recovery I advised her, without delay, to take a long holiday for a tour on the Rhine.
In accordance with the instructions conveyed to him by the Grand Duke, Eduard Devrient now addressed me in reference to the appointed performance of Lohengrin in Karlsruhe under my superintendence. The angry and arrogant disgust expressed in his letter at my desire to see that Lohengrin was produced without 'cuts,' served admirably to expose to me the profound antipathy of this man whom I had once so blindly overestimated. He wrote that one of the first things he had done was to have a copy of the score made for the orchestra with the 'cuts' introduced by Conductor Rietz for the Leipzig performance, and that it would consequently be a tiresome business to put back all the passages which I wished to have restored. He regarded my request in this particular as merely malicious. I now remembered that the only performance of Lohengrin, which had been taken off almost immediately on account of its complete failure, was the one in Leipzig produced by Conductor Rietz. Devrient, regarding Rietz as Mendelssohn's successor and the most solid musician of 'modern times,' had concluded that this mutilation of my work was a suitable one for production in Karlsruhe. But I shuddered at the misguided light in which I had so long persisted in regarding this man. I informed him briefly of my indignation and of my decision to have nothing to do with Lohengrin in Karlsruhe. I also expressed my intention to make my excuses to the Grand Duke at a suitable time. Soon after this I heard that Lohengrin was, after all, to be produced in Karlsruhe in the usual way, and that the newly wedded Schnorrs had been specially engaged for it. A great longing at last filled me to make the acquaintance of Schnorr and his achievements. Without announcing my intentions, I travelled to Karlsruhe, obtained a ticket through Kaliwoda, and heedless of all else went to the performance. In my published Memoirs I have described more accurately the impressions I received on this occasion, more particularly of Schnorr. I fell in love with him at once, and after the performance I sent him a message to come and see me in my room at the hotel and have a little chat. I had heard so much of his delicate state of health that I was genuinely delighted to see him enter the room with a lively step and a look of joy in his eyes. Although it was late at night, and he had undergone a considerable strain, he met my anxiety to avoid all dissipation out of regard to his welfare, by willingly accepting my offer to celebrate our new acquaintance with a bottle of champagne. We spent the greater part of the night in the best of spirits, and among our discussions those on Devrient's character were especially instructive to me. I undertook to stay another day, so as to avail myself of an invitation to lunch with Schnorr and his wife. As by this lengthy stay in Karlsruhe I knew my presence would become known to the Grand Duke, I took advantage on the following day to inform him of my arrival, and he made an appointment to meet me in the afternoon. After talking at lunch to Frau Schnorr, in whom I had recognised a great and well-developed theatrical talent, and after making the most astonishing discoveries about Devrient's behaviour in the Tristan affair, I had my interview at the ducal palace. It was marked by uneasiness on both sides. I openly stated my reasons for withdrawing my promise with regard to the Lohengrin performance, and also my unalterable conviction that a conspiracy to interfere with the production of Tristan originally proposed had been the work of Devrient. As Devrient, by his ingenious attitude, had led the Grand Duke to believe in his profound and genuinely solicitous friendship for me, my communications obviously pained the Grand Duke a great deal. Still, he seemed eager to assume that the matter turned on artistic differences of opinion between me and his theatrical manager, and in bidding me good-bye he expressed the hope of seeing these apparent misunderstandings give way to a satisfactory explanation. I replied with indifference that I did not think it likely I should ever come to an agreement with Devrient. The Grand Duke now gave vent to genuine indignation; he had not thought, he said, that I could so easily treat an old friend with such ingratitude. To meet the keenness of this reproach I could at first only tender my apologies for not having expressed my decision with the emphasis he had a right to expect, but as the Grand Duke had taken this matter so seriously and had thereby seemed to justify me in expressing my real opinion of this supposed friend with equal seriousness, I was bound, with all the earnestness at my command, to assure him that I did not wish to have anything more to do with Devrient. At this the Grand Duke told me, with renewed gentleness, that he declined to regard my assurance as irrevocable, for it lay in his power to propitiate me by other means. I took my departure with an expression of serious regret that I could not help regarding as fruitless any effort made in the direction contemplated by my patron. Later on I ascertained that Devrient, who, of course, was informed by the Grand Duke of what had taken place, looked upon my behaviour as an attempt on my part to ruin and supplant him. The Grand Duke had not abandoned his desire to arrange for the performance of a concert consisting of selections from my most recent works. Devrient had afterwards to write to me again in his official capacity on this subject. In his letter he took occasion to make it clear that he regarded himself as victorious over the intrigues I had practised against him, assuring me at the same time that his distinguished patron nevertheless wished to carry out the concert in question, as from his lofty point of view he knew very well how to distinguish 'the art from the artist.' My answer was a simple refusal.
I had many a conversation with the Schnorrs over the episode, and I made an arrangement with them to visit me soon in Biebrich. I returned there now, to be in time for Bulow's visit, of which I had already been informed. He arrived at the beginning of July to look for lodgings for himself and Cosima, who followed two days later. We were immensely pleased to meet again, and utilised the occasion to make excursions of all sorts for the benefit of our health in the pleasant Rheingau country. We took our meals together regularly in the public dining-room of the Europaischer Hof (where the Schnorrs also came to stay), and we were generally as merry as possible. In the evening we had music in my rooms. Alwine Frommann, on her way through Biebrich, also came to the reading of the Meistersinger. All present seemed to be struck with surprise on hearing my latest libretto, and especially by the vernacular gaiety of the style, of which until now I had not availed myself. Frau Dustmann also, who had a special engagement for a performance at Wiesbaden, paid me a visit. Unfortunately I noticed in her a lively antipathy to her sister Friederike, a fact which, among others, strengthened my conviction that it was high time for Friederike to dissociate herself from all ties in Frankfort. After I had been enabled, with Bulow's support, to play my friends the completed parts of the composition of the Meistersinger, I went through most of Tristan, and in this process the Schnorrs had an opportunity of showing the extent to which they had already made themselves acquainted with their task. I found that both were a good deal lacking in clearness of enunciation.
The summer now brought more visitors into our neighbourhood, and amongst them several of my acquaintances. David, the Leipzig concert director, called on me with his young pupil, August Wilhelmj, the son of a Wiesbaden lawyer. We now had music in the true sense of the word, and Conductor Alois Schmitt from Schwerin contributed an odd share by performing what he called a worthless old composition of his. One evening we had a crowded party, the Schotts joining the rest of my friends, and both the Schnorrs delighted us keenly with a performance of the so-called love- scene in the third act of Lohengrin. We were all deeply moved by the sudden apparition of Rockel in our common dining-room at the hotel. He had been released from Waldheimer prison after thirteen years. I was astounded to find absolutely no radical change in the appearance of my old acquaintance, except for the faded colour of his hair. He himself explained this to me by observing that he had stepped out of something like a shell in which he had been ensconced for his own preservation. As we were deliberating about the field of activity on which he ought now to enter, I advised him to seek some useful employment in the service of a benevolent and liberal-minded man like the Grand Duke of Baden. He did not think he would succeed in any ministerial capacity, owing to his want of legal knowledge; on the other hand, he was eminently qualified to undertake the supervision of a house of correction, as he had obtained not only the most accurate information on this subject, but at the same time had noted what reforms were necessary. He went off to the German shooting competition taking place at Frankfort. There, in recognition of his martyrdom and his unwavering conduct, he was accorded a flattering ovation, and he stayed in Frankfort and its neighbourhood for some time.
Casar Willig, a painter who had received a commission from Otto Wesendonck to paint my portrait at his expense, worried me and my intimate friends at this time. Unfortunately the painter was utterly unsuccessful in his attempt to make a good likeness of me. Although Cosima was present at nearly all the sittings, and tried her utmost to put the artist on the right track, the end of it was that I had to sit for a sharp profile, to enable him to produce anything that could be in the least recognisable as a likeness. After he had performed this task to his satisfaction, he painted another copy for me out of gratitude. I sent this at once to Minna in Dresden, through whom it ultimately went to my sister Louisa. It was a horrible picture, and I was confronted with it once afterwards when it was exhibited by the artist in Frankfort.
I made a pleasant excursion with the Bulows and the Schnorrs to Bingen one evening, and availed myself of the opportunity to cross over to Rudesheim to bring back Friederike Meyer, who had been enjoying her holiday there. I introduced her to my friends, and Cosima especially took a friendly interest in this uncommonly gifted woman. Our gaiety as we sat over a glass of wine in the open air was heightened by our being unexpectedly accosted by a traveller who approached us respectfully from a distant table; he held his glass filled, and at once greeted me politely and with the utmost warmth. He was a native of Berlin and a great enthusiast of my work. He spoke not only for himself, but also on behalf of two of his friends, who joined us at our table; and our good-humour led us ultimately to champagne. A splendid evening with a wonderful moon-rise shed its influence over the gladness of our spirits as we returned home late in the evening after this delightful excursion. When we visited Schlangenbad (where Alwine Frommann was staying) in equally high spirits, our reckless humour beguiled us into making an even longer excursion to Rolandseck. We made our first halt at Remagen, where we visited the handsome church, in which a young monk was preaching to an immense crowd, and we afterwards lunched in a garden on the bank of the Rhine. We remained that night in Rolandseck, and next morning we went up the Drachenfels. In connection with this ascent, an adventure happened which had a merry sequel. On the return journey, after getting out of the train at the railway station and crossing the Rhine, I missed my letter-case containing a note for two hundred marks; it had slipped out of my overcoat pocket. Two gentlemen who had joined us on the way from the Drachenfels immediately offered to retrace their steps, a somewhat arduous undertaking, to hunt for the lost object. After a few hours they returned, and handed me the letter-case with its contents intact. Two stone-cutters at work on the summit of the mountain had found it. They restored it at once, and the honest fellows were presented with a handsome reward. The happy issue to this adventure had, of course, to be celebrated by a good dinner with the best wine. The story was not completed for me until a long time afterwards. In 1873, on my entering a restaurant in Cologne, the host introduced himself to me as the man who, eleven years previously, had catered for us at the inn on the Rhine, and had changed that very two-hundred-mark note for me. He then told me what had happened to that note. An Englishman, to whom he had related the adventure of the note on the same day, offered to buy it from him for double its value. The host declined any such transaction, but allowed the Englishman to have the note on the promise of the latter to stand champagne to all those present at the time. The promise was fulfilled to the letter.
An invitation to Osthofen from the Weisheimer family was the origin of a less satisfactory excursion than the one described above. We put up there for one night after being compelled on the previous day to take part at all hours in the frolics of a peasant wedding-feast which was simply interminable. Cosima was the only one who managed to keep in a good temper throughout the proceedings. I supported her to the best of my abilities. But Bulow's depression, which had increased during the preceding days, grew deeper and deeper, was aggravated by every possible incident, until at last it developed into an outbreak of fury. We tried to console ourselves with the reflection that a similar infliction could never again fall to our lot. The following day, while I was preparing for my departure, and brooding over other sources of dissatisfaction at my position, Cosima induced Hans to continue the journey as far as Worms in the hope of finding something refreshing and cheering in a visit to the ancient cathedral there, and from that place they followed me later to Biebrich.
One little adventure we had at the gaming-table at Wiesbaden still lingers in my memory. Within the last few days I had received a royalty of twenty louis d'or from the theatre for an opera. Not knowing what to do with so small a sum (as my situation, on the whole, was growing worse and worse), I ventured to ask Cosima to risk half the sum at roulette in our joint interest. I observed with astonishment how, without even the smallest knowledge of the game, she staked one gold piece after another on the table, throwing it down so that it never definitely covered any particular number or colour. In this way it gradually disappeared behind the croupier's rake. I grew alarmed, and hurriedly went to another table in the hope of counteracting the effect of Cosima's unguided and misguided efforts. In this very economical pursuit luck befriended me so substantially, that I at once recovered the ten louis d'or which my fair friend had lost at the other table. This soon put us into a very merry mood. Less cheering than this adventure was our visit to a performance of Lohengrin in Wiesbaden. After we had been pretty well satisfied and put into a fairly good humour by the first act, the representation turned, as it proceeded, into a current of maddening misrepresentation such as I should never have believed possible. In a fury I left the theatre before the end, while Hans, urged by Cosima's reminder of the proprieties (though they were both as much infuriated as I was), endured the martyrdom of witnessing the performance to a close.
On another occasion I heard that the Metternichs had arrived at their Castle Johannisberg. Still preoccupied with my main anxiety to obtain a peaceful domicile in which to conclude the Meistersinger, I kept an eye on this castle, which was generally unoccupied, and announced my intention of calling on the Prince. An invitation soon followed, and the Bulows accompanied me to the railway station. I could not fail to be satisfied with the friendly reception accorded to me by my patrons. They, too, had been considering the question of finding a temporary resting- place for me in the Johannisberg Castle, and found they could give me a small flat in the house of the keeper of the castle for my sole use, only they drew my attention to the difficulty of obtaining my board. The Prince, however, had busied himself more actively with another matter, that of creating a permanent position for me in Vienna. He said that on his next stay in Vienna he would have a discussion about my affairs with Schmerling the minister, whom he thought it was most suitable to consult on such a matter. He was a man who would understand me, and perhaps be able to discover a proper position for me in the higher sense of the word, and arouse the Emperor's interest in me. If I went to Vienna again, I was simply to call on Schmerling, and he would receive me as a matter of course on account of the Prince's introduction. As the result of an invitation to the ducal court, the Metternichs had repaired without loss of time to Wiesbaden, to which city I accompanied them, and again fell in with the Bulows.
Schnorr had left us after a fortnight's stay, and now the time had also come for the Bulows to depart. I accompanied them as far as Frankfort, where we spent two more days together to see a performance of Goethe's Tasso. Liszt's symphonic poem Tasso was to precede the play. It was with odd feelings that we witnessed this performance. Friederike Meyer as the Princess and Herr Schneider as Tasso appealed to us greatly, but Hans could not get over the shameful execution of Liszt's work by the conductor, Ignaz Lachner. Before going to the theatre Friedrike gave us a luncheon at the restaurant in the Botanical Gardens. In the end the mysterious Herr von Guaita also joined us there. We now noticed with astonishment that all further conversation was carried on between them as a duologue which was quite unintelligible to us. All that we could make out was the furious jealousy of Herr von Guaita and Friederike's witty, scornful defence. But the excited man became more composed when he suggested I should arrange for a performance of Lohengrin in Frankfort under my own direction. I was favourably disposed to the suggestion, as I saw in it an opportunity for another meeting with the Bulows and the Schnorrs. The Bulows promised to come, and I invited the Schnorrs to be in the cast. This time we could take leave of one another cheerfully, although the increasing and often excessive ill-humour of poor Hans had drawn many an involuntary sigh from me. He seemed to be in perpetual torment. On the other hand, Cosima appeared to have lost the shyness she had evinced towards me when I visited Reichenhall in the previous year, and a very friendly manner had taken its place. While I was singing 'Wotan's Abschied' to my friends I noticed the same expression on Cosima's face as I had seen on it, to my astonishment, in Zurich on a similar occasion, only the ecstasy of it was transfigured into something higher. Everything connected with this was shrouded in silence and mystery, but the belief that she belonged to me grew to such certainty in my mind, that when I was under the influence of more than ordinary excitement my conduct betrayed the most reckless gaiety. As I was accompanying Cosima to the hotel across a public square, I suddenly suggested she should sit in an empty wheelbarrow which stood in the street, so that I might wheel her to the hotel. She assented in an instant. My astonishment was so great that I felt all my courage desert me, and was unable to carry out my mad project.
On returning to Biebrich I was at once confronted with grave difficulties, for Schott, after keeping me some time in suspense, now definitely refused to pay me any further subsidies. The advances I had already received from my publisher had, it is true, until quite recently, served to defray all my expenses since leaving Vienna, including my wife's removal to Dresden and my own migration to Biebrich by way of Paris, where I had to satisfy more than one lurking creditor. But in spite of these initial difficulties, which, I suppose, took about half the money I was to have for the Meistersinger by agreement, I had counted upon finishing my work in peace with the remainder of the sum stipulated. But since then Schott had put me off with vain promises about a fixed date for balancing accounts with the bookseller. I had already been put to great straits, and now everything seemed to depend on my being able to hand over a complete act of the Meistersinger to Schott quickly. I had got as far as the scene where Pogner is about to introduce Walther von Stolzing to the meistersingers, when – about the middle of August, while Bulow was still there – an accident occurred which, though slight in itself, made me incapable of writing for two whole months.
My surly host kept a bulldog named Leo chained up, and neglected him so cruelly that it excited my constant sympathy. I therefore tried one day to have him freed from vermin, and held his head myself, so that the servant who was doing it should not be frightened. Although the dog had learned to trust me thoroughly, he snapped at me once involuntarily and bit me – apparently very slightly – in the upper joint of my right-hand thumb. There was no wound visible, but it was soon evident that the periosteum had become inflamed from the contusion. As the pain increased more and more with the use of the thumb, I was ordered to do no writing until my hand was quite healed. If my plight was not quite so terrible as the newspapers – which announced that I had been bitten by a mad dog – made out, it was still conducive to serious reflection on human frailty. To complete my task, therefore, I needed, not only a sound mind and good ideas, irrespective of any required skill, but also a healthy thumb to write with, as my work was not a libretto I could dictate, but music which no one but myself could write down.
On the advice of Raff, who considered a volume of my songs to be worth one thousand francs, I decided to offer my publisher, by way of temporary compensation, five poems by my friend Frau Wesendonck which I had set to music (consisting chiefly of studies for Tristan with which I was occupied at the time), so that he should at least have something on the market. The songs were accepted and published, but they seemed to have produced no softening effect on Schott's mood. I was obliged to conclude that he was acting on some one else's instigation, and I betook myself to Kissingen (where he was staying for his 'cure') in order to get to the bottom of it and shape my next moves accordingly. An interview with him was obstinately denied me, and Frau Schott, who was posted outside his door in the role of guardian angel, informed me that a bad liver attack prevented him from seeing me. I now realised my position with regard to him. For the moment I drew on young Weisheimer for some money, which he gave me most willingly, supported as he was by a wealthy father, and then set to work to consider what I could do next. I could no longer count on Schott, and had in consequence lost all prospect of an unopposed performance of the Meistersinger.
At this juncture I was much surprised to receive a renewed official invitation to Vienna for the performance of Tristan at the Opera, where I was informed all obstacles had been removed, as Ander had completely recovered his voice. I was genuinely astonished to hear this, and on further inquiry arrived at the following elucidation of the transactions that had been taking place on my behalf in Vienna during the interval. Before I left there the last time Frau Luise Dustmann, who seemed to take a real pleasure in the part of Isolde, had tried to clear away the real impediment to my undertaking by persuading me to go to an evening party, where she intended to introduce me again to Dr. Hanslick. She knew that unless this gentleman could be brought round to my side nothing could be accomplished in Vienna. As I was in a good temper that evening I found it easy to treat Hanslick as a superficial acquaintance, until he drew me aside for an intimate talk, and with sobs and tears assured me he could not bear to be misunderstood by me any longer. The blame for anything that might have been extraordinary in his judgment of me was to be laid, not on any malicious intention, but solely on the narrow-mindedness of an individual who desired nothing more ardently than to learn from me how to widen the boundaries of his knowledge. All this was said in such a burst of emotion that I could do nothing but soothe his grief and promise him my unreserved sympathy with his work in future. Just before leaving Vienna I actually heard that Hanslick had launched forth into unmeasured praise of myself and my amiability. This change had so affected both the singers at the Opera and also Councillor Raymond (the Lord High Steward's adviser) that at last, working from high circles downwards, it came to be regarded as a point of honour with the Viennese to have Tristan performed in their city. Hence my summons!
I heard at the same time from young Weisheimer, who had betaken himself to Leipzig, that he was sure he could arrange a good concert there if I could assist him by conducting my new prelude to the Meistersinger as well as the Tannhauser Overture. He believed it would make so great a sensation that the probable sale of all the tickets would enable him to place a not inconsiderable sum at my disposal after the bare expenses had been deducted. In addition to this, I could hardly go back on my promise to Herr von Guaita with respect to a performance of Lohengrin at Frankfort, although the Schnorrs had been obliged to decline to take part in it. After weighing all these offers I decided to put the Meistersinger aside, and try to earn enough by enterprises abroad to enable me in the following spring to take up and finish my interrupted work on the spot, unaffected by Schott's humours. I therefore decided at all costs to keep on the house at Biebrich, which I really liked. Minna, on the other hand, had been pressing me to send some of the furniture which I had kept, to complete her own establishment at Dresden, namely, my bed and a few other things to which I was accustomed, 'so that when I went to see her,' she said, 'I should find everything in proper order.' I did not want to act contrary to the established fiction which was to make the parting from me easier for her; I therefore sent her what she wanted, and bought new furniture for my home on the Rhine with the assistance of a Wiesbaden manufacturer, who allowed me fairly long credit.
At the end of September I went to Frankfort for a week to take over the rehearsals of Lohengrin. Here again I went through the same experience as I had so often done before. I no sooner came into contact with the members of the opera company than I felt a desire to throw up the undertaking on the spot; then the general consternation and the entreaties that I would persevere caused a reaction, under the influence of which I held out until I at last became interested in certain things for their own sake, and quite apart from any consideration of the wretched singers. The things that pleased me were the effect of an uncurtailed performance, and the employment of correct tempi and correct staging. Yet I suppose Friederike Meyer was the only one who completely realised these effects. The usual 'animation' of the audience was not lacking, but I was told later on that the subsequent performances fell off, so that the opera had to be curtailed in the old way to keep it going. (They were conducted by Herr Ignaz Lachner of Frankfort, a smart, sleek man, but a wretchedly bad, muddle- headed conductor.)
I was the more prostrated by the effect of all this because even the Bulows had failed to pay me their expected visit. Cosima, as I was now informed, had passed me by in haste on her way to Paris to offer her support for a short time to her grandmother, who was suffering from a tedious illness, and had now received a most painful blow by the news of the death of Blandine after her confinement, which had taken place at St. Tropez.
I now shut myself up for some time in my house at Biebrich, the weather having suddenly turned cold, and prevailed on my thumb to prove itself capable of writing down the instrumentation of some extracts for immediate concert purposes from the Meistersinger, which was now complete. I sent the prelude to Weisheimer at once to be copied at Leipzig, and also set the Versammlung dor Meistersinger and Pogner's Anrede for orchestra.
By the end of October I was at last ready to start on my journey to Leipzig, in the course of which I was induced in a strange way to enter the Wartburg once more. I had alighted for a few minutes at Eisenach, and the train had just begun to move as I was hurriedly trying to catch it. I ran after the vanishing train involuntarily with a sharp cry to the guard, but naturally without being able to stop it. A considerable crowd, which had gathered on the station to watch the departure of a prince, thereupon broke into loud outbursts of laughter, and when I said to them, 'I suppose you are glad that this happened to me?' they replied, 'Yes, it was very funny.' On this incident I based my axiom that you can please the German public by your misfortunes if by nothing else. As there was no other train to Leipzig for five hours I telegraphed to my brother-in-law, Hermann Brockhaus (whom I had asked to put me up), telling him of my delay, and allowed a man who introduced himself as a guide to persuade me to visit the Wartburg. There I saw the partial restoration made by the Grand Duke, and also the hall containing Schwind's pictures, to all of which I was quite indifferent. I then turned into the restaurant of this show-place of Eisenach, and found several women there engaged in knitting stockings. The Grand Duke of Weimar assured me some time afterwards that Tannhauser enjoyed great popularity throughout the whole of Thuringia down to the lowest peasant boy, but neither the host nor my guide seemed to know anything about it. However, I signed the visitors' book with my full name, and described in it the pleasant greeting I had received at the station, though I have never heard that any one noticed it.
Hermann Brockhaus, who had aged rather and grown stout, gave me a most cheerful reception when I arrived, late at night, at Leipzig. He took me to his house, where I found Ottilie and her family, and was installed in comfort. We had much to talk about, and my brother-in-law's remarkably good-natured way of entering into our conversation often kept us up fascinated until all hours of the morning. My connection with Weisheimer, a young and quite unknown composer, aroused some misgivings. His concert programme was in fact filled with a great number of his own compositions, including a symphonic poem, just completed, entitled Der Ritter Toggenburg. I should probably have raised a protest against carrying out this programme in its entirety had I attended the rehearsals in an undisturbed frame of mind, but it so happened that the hours I spent in the concert-room proved to be among the most intimate and pleasant recollections of my life, for there I met the Bulows again. Hans seemed to have felt it his duty to join me in celebrating Weisheimer's debut, his contribution being a new pianoforte concerto by Liszt. To enter the old familiar hall of the Gewandhaus at Leipzig was enough in itself to cause me an uneasy feeling of depression, which was increased by my reception by the members of the orchestra – of whose estrangement I was keenly conscious – and to whom I had to introduce myself as an entire stranger. But I felt myself suddenly transported when I discovered Cosima sitting in a corner of the hall, in deep mourning and very pale, but smiling cheerfully at me. She had returned shortly before from Paris – where her grandmother now lay hopelessly bedridden – filled with grief at the inexplicably sudden death of her sister, and she now seemed, even to my eyes, to be leaving another world to approach me. Our emotions were so genuinely deep and sincere that only an unconditional surrender to the enjoyment of meeting again could bridge the chasm. All the incidents of the rehearsal affected us like a magic-lantern show of peculiarly enlivening character, at which we looked on like merry children. Hans, who was in an equally happy mood – for we all seemed to each other to be embarked on some Quixotic adventure – called my attention to Brendel, who was sitting not far from us, and seemed to be expecting me to recognise him. I found it entertaining to prolong this suspense thus occasioned, by pretending not to know him, whereat, as it appears, the poor man was much offended. Recalling my unjust behaviour on this occasion, I therefore made a point of alluding specially to Brendel's services when speaking in public some time afterwards on Judaism in Music, by way of atonement, as it were, to this man, who had died in the meantime. The arrival of Alexander Ritter with my niece Franziska helped to enliven us. My niece, indeed, found constant entertainment and excitement in the enormity of Weisheimer's compositions, while Ritter, who was acquainted with the text of my Meistersinger, described a highly unintelligible melody given to the basses in Ritter Toggenburg as 'the lonely gormandiser mode.' [Footnote: Meistersinger (English version), Act 1, scene ii.] Our good-humour might have failed us in the end, however, had we not been refreshed and uplifted by the happy effect which the prelude to the Meistersinger (which had at last been successfully rehearsed) and Bulow's glorious rendering of Liszt's new work produced. The actual concert itself gave a final ghostly touch to an adventure to which we had looked forward so contentedly till then. To Weisheimer's horror the Leipzig public stayed away en masse, in response apparently to a sign from the leaders of the regular subscription concerts. I have never seen any place so empty on an occasion of this sort; besides the members of my family – among whom my sister Ottilie was conspicuous in a very eccentric cap – there was no one to be seen but a few visitors, who had come into town for the occasion, occupying one or two benches. I noticed in particular my Weimar friends, Conductor Lassen, Councillor Franz Muller, the never- failing Richard Pohl, and Justizrath Gille, who had all nobly put in an appearance. I also recognised with a shock of surprise old Councillor Kustner, the former manager of the Court Theatre in Berlin, and I had to respond amiably to his greeting and his astonishment at the incomprehensible emptiness of the hall. The people of Leipzig were represented solely by special friends of my family, who never went to a concert in the ordinary way, among them being my devoted friend, Dr. Lothar Muller, the son of Dr. Moritz Muller, an allopath whom I had known very well in my earliest youth. In the middle of the hall there were only the concert-giver's fiancee and her mother. At a little distance away, and facing this lady, I took a seat next to Cosima while the concert was in progress. My family, observing us from a distance, were offended by the almost incessant laughter which possessed us, as they themselves were in the depths of depression.
As regards the prelude to the Meistersinger, its successful performance affected the few friends who formed the audience so favourably that we had to repeat it there and then – to the satisfaction even of the orchestra. Indeed, their artificially nurtured distrust of me, which had been like a coating of ice, now seemed to have melted, for when I brought the concert to a close with the Tannhauser Overture the orchestra celebrated my recall with a tremendous flourish of instruments. This delighted my sister Ottilie beyond measure, as she maintained that such an honour had never been accorded before except to Jenny Lind. My friend Weisheimer, who had really tired every one's patience in the most inconsiderate way, afterwards developed a feeling of dissatisfaction towards me which dated from this period. He felt bound to confess to himself that he would have done much better without my brilliant orchestral pieces, in which case he might have offered the public a concert at a cheaper rate, consisting exclusively of his own works. As it was, he had to bear the costs – to his father's great disappointment – and also to overcome the unnecessary humiliation of being unable to give me any profits.
My brother-in-law was not to be deterred by these painful impressions from carrying out the household festivities, which had been arranged beforehand in celebration of my expected triumphs. The Bulows were also invited to one of the banquets, and there was an evening party at which I read the Meistersinger to an imposing array of professors, and met with much appreciation. I renewed my acquaintance with Professor Weiss, too, who interested me very much, for I remembered him from my young days as a friend of my uncle's. He expressed himself as particularly surprised by my skill in reading aloud.
The Bulows had now unfortunately returned to Berlin. We had met once more on a very cold day in the street (under unpleasant conditions, for they were paying duty calls), but the general depression which had settled on us seemed more noticeable, during our short leave-taking, than the fleeting good-humour of the last few days. My friends were well aware of the terrible and utterly forlorn condition in which I found myself. I had been idiotic enough to count on the proceeds from the Leipzig concert to provide at least the needs of the moment, and I was, in the first place, put into the awkward position of being unable to pay my landlord punctually (the house rent at Biebrich being now due). But I was ready to stake everything on keeping this asylum for another year, and I had to deal with an obstinate, bad-tempered creature whom I thought it necessary to pay in advance for the sake of securing the place. As I had just then to supply Minna with her quarterly allowance also, the money which Regierungsrath Muller forwarded to me from the Grand Duke seemed, indeed, a heaven-sent windfall. For after giving up Schott entirely I had, in my distress, turned to this old acquaintance and begged him to explain my situation to the Grand Duke and induce him to send me some help – to be regarded possibly as payment in advance for my new operas. In response to this I received the startling and unexpected sum of fifteen hundred marks through Muller's instrumentality. It was not until some time after that I accounted for this generosity by the supposition that the Grand Duke's amiable behaviour towards me had been a deliberate attempt to make an impression upon his friend Liszt, whom he wished to entice back to Weimar at all costs. He was certainly not mistaken in counting on the excellent effect his binding generosity to me would have on our common friend.
I was therefore in a position to go to Dresden for a few days at once, to renew my provision for Minna, and at the same time to honour her with one of the visits deemed necessary to support her in her difficult situation. Minna conducted me from the station to the flat which she had taken and furnished in Walpurgisstrasse, a street which had not been built at the time I left Dresden. She had as usual arranged her home very tastefully, and with the aim evidently of making me comfortable. I was greeted on the threshold by a little mat embroidered with the word Salve, and I recognised our Paris drawing-room at once in the red silk curtains and the furniture. I was to have a majestic bedroom, an exceedingly comfortable study on the other side, as well as the drawing-room at my entire disposal, while she installed herself in one little room with recesses looking on to the yard. The study was adorned by the magnificent mahogany bureau which had originally been made for my house when I was conductor at Dresden. It had been bought in by the Ritter family, after my flight from that city, and presented to Kummer, the son- in-law, from whom Minna had hired it temporarily, leaving me the option of buying it back for one hundred and eighty marks. As I showed no desire to do so her mood became gloomier. Oppressed by the fearful embarrassment which she experienced on being alone with me, she had invited my sister Clara to come on a visit from Chemnitz, and was now sharing the small room at her disposal with Her. Clara proved herself extraordinarily wise and sympathetic on this as on former occasions. She pitied Minna of course, and was anxious to help her at this difficult period, though always with a view to strengthening her in the conviction that our parting was unavoidable. An exact knowledge of my extremely awkward position now seemed called for. My financial difficulties were so crushing that the only excuse for telling Minna was to silence her uneasy suspicions about me. I did, however, succeed in avoiding all explanations with her – the more easily as my meetings with Fritz Brockhaus and his family (including the married daughter Clara Kessinger), the Pusinellis, old Heine, and lastly the two Schnorrs, provided a pretext for our spending most of the time in the society of others.
I filled the mornings by making calls, and it was when I set out to pay my respects and thanks to Minister Bar for my amnesty that I trod the familiar streets of Dresden again. My first impression was one of extraordinary boredom and emptiness, for I had last seen them filled with barricades, in which fantastic condition they had looked so unusually interesting. I did not see a single familiar face on the way. Even the glover, whom I had always patronised and whose shop I now had occasion to revisit, did not seem to know me, until an oldish man rushed across the street to me and greeted me with great excitement and tears in his eyes. It turned out to be Karl Kummer of the court orchestra (looking much older), the most inspired oboist I ever met. I had taken him almost tenderly to my heart on account of his playing, and we embraced joyfully. I asked whether he still played his instrument as beautifully as before, whereupon he assured me that since I had left his oboe had failed to give real satisfaction, and it was now a long time since he had had himself pensioned off. He told me in response to my inquiries that all my old military bandsmen – including Dietz, the tall double-bass player – were either dead or pensioned off. Our manager Luttichau and Conductor Reissiger were among those who had died, Lipinsky had returned to Poland long before, Schubert, the leader, was unfit for work, and everything seemed to me sad and strange. Minister Bar expressed to me the grave qualms he still felt about the amnesty granted me. True, he had ventured to sign it himself, but was still troubled to think that my great popularity as a composer of opera would make it easy for me to raise annoying demonstrations. I comforted him at once by promising only to remain a few days and to refrain from visiting the theatre, upon which he dismissed me with a deep sigh and an exceedingly grave face.
Very different was my reception from Herr von Beust, who with smiling elegance of manner implied by his conversation that I was perhaps not so innocent after all as I now seemed to think myself. He drew my attention to a letter of mine which had been found in Rockel's pocket, at the time. This was new to me, and I willingly gave him to understand that I felt myself bound to look on the amnesty accorded me as a pardon for my incautious behaviour in the past, and we parted with the liveliest manifestations of friendship.
We invited some friends one evening in Minna's drawing-room, where I read out the Meistersinger once more to the people who did not know it. After Minna had been provided with enough money to last some time, she accompanied me back to the station on the fourth day; but she was filled with such fearful presentiments of never seeing me again that her farewell was made in positive anguish.
At Leipzig I put up at an inn for one day. There I met Alexander Ritter, and we spent a pleasant evening together over our punch. The reason that had induced me to make this short stay was the assurance given me that if I gave a concert of my own it would not be one of the regular series. I had weighed this information with reference to the much-needed money it might bring in, but I now realised that the undertaking rested on no security. I returned in haste to Biebrich, where I had to get my household affairs into order. To my great annoyance I found my landlord in a more impossible temper than ever. He seemed unable to forget my having blamed him for his treatment of the dog, and also of my servant, whom I had been obliged to protect against him when she had had a love-affair with a tailor. In spite of receiving payment and promises he remained peevish, and insisted that he would have to move into my part of the house on account of his health in the coming spring. So while I forced him, by paying advance, to leave my household goods untouched until Easter at least, I went about trying to find a suitable house for the following year, visiting various places in the Rheingau under the guidance of Dr. Schuler and Mathilde Maier. I had no success, however, the time being so short, but my friends promised to search untiringly for what I wanted.
At Mayence I met Friederike Meyer again. Her situation in Frankfort seemed to have grown more and more difficult. When she heard that I had turned away Herr von Guaita's manager, who had been sent to Biebrich with instructions to pay me fifteen louis d'or for conducting Lohengrin, she upheld my action strongly. As for herself, she had broken with that gentleman entirely, insisting on being released from her contract, and was now about to enter upon a special engagement at the Burgtheater. She won my sympathy once more by her conduct and determination, which I had to consider as a powerful refutation of the calumnies brought up against her. As I too was in the act of starting for Vienna, she was glad to be able to make part of the journey in my company. She proposed to stop a day at Nuremberg, where I could pick her up for the next stage of the journey. This we did and arrived in Vienna together, where my friend went to Hotel Munsch, while I chose the Kaiserin Elizabeth, where I now felt at home. This was on the 15th of November. I went to see Conductor Esser at once, and heard from him that Tristan was really being studied vigorously. With Frau Dustmann, on the other hand, I became immediately involved in very unpleasant disagreements through my relation to her sister Friederike, which it was easy to misunderstand. It was impossible to make her see how things really stood. In her eyes her sister was involved in a liaison, and had been cast off by her family, so that her arrival in Vienna was compromising to them. In addition to this Friederike's own condition soon caused me the greatest anxiety. She had made an engagement to appear three times at the Burgtheater without considering that just then she was not likely to make a good appearance on the stage, particularly before the Viennese public. Her serious illness, the recovery from which had been attended by the most exciting circumstances, had disfigured her and made her very thin. She had also gone almost entirely bald, but nevertheless persisted in her great objection to wearing a wig. Her sister's hostility had estranged her colleagues at the theatre, and as a result of all this, and also on account of her unfortunate choice of a role, her appearance was a failure. There could be no question of her being taken on at that theatre. Although her weakness increased, and she suffered from constant insomnia, she still tried, in her magnanimity and her shame, to hide from me the awkwardness of her situation. She went to a cheaper inn, the 'Stadt Frankfurt,' where she intended to wait and see the result of sparing her nerves as far as possible. She seemed to be in no embarrassment as far as money was concerned, but at my request consulted Standhartner, who did not seem to know how to help her much. As open-air exercise had been strongly recommended, and as the weather was at present bitterly cold (from the end of November to the beginning of December), I hit on the idea of advising her to go to Venice for a prolonged stay. Once again there seemed no lack of means, and she followed my advice. One icy morning I accompanied her to the station, and there for the present I left her, as I hoped, to a kinder fate. She had a faithful maid with her, and I soon had the satisfaction of receiving reassuring accounts – of her health especially – from Venice.
While my relations with her had brought me troublesome complications, I still kept up my old Viennese acquaintances. A curious incident occurred at the very beginning of my visit. I had to read the Meistersinger aloud to the Standhartner family, as I had done everywhere else. As Dr. Hanslick was now supposed to be well disposed towards me, it was considered the right thing to invite him too. We noticed that as the reading proceeded the dangerous critic became more and more pale and depressed, and it was remarked by everyone that it was impossible to persuade him to stay on at the close, but that he took his leave there and then in an unmistakably vexed manner. My friends all agreed in thinking that Hanslick looked on the whole libretto as a lampoon aimed at himself, and had felt an invitation to the reading to be an insult. And undoubtedly the critic's attitude towards me underwent a very remarkable change from that evening. He became uncompromisingly hostile, with results that were obvious to us at once.
Cornelius and Tausig had again been to see me, but I had to work off my resentment against them both for the fit of real ill- humour their behaviour had caused me in the previous summer. This had happened when I expected the Bulows and the Schnorrs to stay with me together at Biebrich, and my warm interest in these two young friends, Cornelius and Tausig, led me to invite them too. I received Cornelius's acceptance immediately, and was the more surprised to get a letter from Geneva, whither Tausig (who appeared to have funds at his disposal all of a sudden) had carried him off on a summer excursion – no doubt of a more important and pleasanter nature. Without the least mention of any regret at not being able to meet me that summer, they simply announced to me that 'a glorious cigar had just been smoked to my health.' And now, when I met them again in Vienna, I found it impossible to refrain from pointing out to them the insulting nature of their behaviour; but they seemed unable to understand how I could object to their preferring the beautiful tour into French Switzerland to paying me a visit at Biebrich. I was obviously a tyrant to them. Besides this, I thought Tausig's curious conduct at my hotel suspicious. I was told that he took his meals in the downstairs restaurant, after which he climbed up past my floor to the fourth storey, to pay long visits to Countess Krockow. When I asked him about it, and learned that the lady in question was also a friend of Cosima's, I expressed my surprise at his not introducing me. He continued to evade this suggestion with singularly vague phrases, and when I ventured to tease him by the supposition of a love-affair, he said there could be no question of such a thing, as the lady was old. So I let him alone, but the amazement which his peculiar behaviour then caused me was intensified some years later when I at last learned to know Countess Krockow very well, and was assured of her deep interest in me. It seemed that she had desired nothing more than to make my acquaintance also at that time, but that Tausig had always refused to find an opportunity, and had made the excuse that I did not care about women's society.
But we eventually resumed our lively and sociable habits when I began seriously to carry out my project of giving concerts in Vienna. Although the piano rehearsals for the principal solo parts of Tristan had been put in hand diligently – I had left them to Conductor Esser, who took them zealously in hand – my mistrust as to the real success of these studies was unshaken, and the point which I doubted most was not so much the capabilities of the singers as their goodwill. Moreover, Frau Dustmann's absurd behaviour disgusted me on my frequent attendance at the rehearsals. On the other hand, I now set my hopes on making a good impression, on the score of novelty alone, by performing selections from my own works still unknown to the Viennese public. In this way I could show my secret enemies that there were other means open to me of bringing my more recent compositions before the public than by the medium of the stage, where they could so easily stop me. For all the practical details of the performance Tausig now proved himself particularly useful. We agreed to hire the Theatre on the Wien for three evenings, the idea being to give one concert at the end of December and to repeat the experiment twice after a week's interval. The first thing was to copy out the orchestral parts from the sections which I cut out from my scores for the concert. There were two selections from Rheingold and two from the Walkure and the Meistersinger, but I kept back the prelude to Tristan for the present, so as not to clash with the performance of the whole work at the Opera which was still being advertised. Cornelius and Tausig, with some assistant copyists, now started on the work, which could only be carried out by experienced score-readers if it was to be done correctly. They were joined by Weisheimer, who had arrived in Vienna, having in the end decided to come to the concert. Tausig also mentioned Brahms to me, recommending him as a 'very good fellow,' who, although he was so famous himself, would willingly take over a part of their work, and a selection from the Meistersinger was accordingly allotted to him. And, indeed, Brahms's behaviour proved unassuming and good-natured, but he showed little vivacity and was often hardly noticed at our gatherings. I also came across Friedrich Uhl again, an old acquaintance who was now editing a political paper called Der Botschafter with Julius Frobel under Schmerling's auspices. He placed his journal at my disposal, and made me give him the first act of the libretto of Meistersinger for his feuilleton. Whereupon my friends chose to think that Hanslick grew more and more venomous.
While I and my companions were overwhelmed by the preparations for the concert, there came in one day a certain Herr Moritz, whom Bulow had introduced to me in Paris as a ridiculous person. His clumsy and importunate behaviour and the idiotic messages – evidently of his own invention – which he brought me from Bulow drove me in the end to show him the door with great emphasis, for I too was carried away by Tausig's lively annoyance at this very officious intruder. He reported on this to Cosima in a manner so insulting to Bulow that she in return found it necessary to express to me in writing her intense indignation at my inconsiderate behaviour towards my best friends. I was really so surprised and dumbfounded by this strange and inexplicable event that I handed Cosima's letter to Tausig without comment, merely asking him. what could be done in the face of such nonsense. He at once undertook to show Cosima the incident in a correct light and clear up the misunderstanding, and I soon had the pleasure of hearing that he had met with success.
We had now come to the point of rehearsing for the concert. The Royal Opera had supplied me with the singers needed for the selections from Rheingold, the Walkure, and Siegfried ('Schmiede- Lieder'), and also for Pogner's Anrede from the Meistersinger. I had only to fall back on amateurs for the three Rhine maidens. The concert director Hellmesberger was a great help to me in this matter as in every other way, and his fine playing and enthusiastic demonstrations when leading the orchestra never failed in any circumstances. After the deafening preliminary rehearsals in a small music-room in the opera house, which had perplexed Cornelius by the great noise they made, we arrived at the stage itself. In addition to the expense of hiring the place, I had to bear the cost of the requisite extension of the orchestra. The room, which was lined all round with theatrical scenery, was still extraordinarily unfavourable for sound. I hardly felt like running the risk of providing an acoustic wall and ceiling on my own account, however. Although the first performance on 26th December drew a large audience, it brought me in nothing but outrageously heavy expenses and great distress at the dismal effect of the orchestra owing to the bad acoustics. In spite of the dark outlook I decided to bear the cost of building a sound-screen, in order to enhance the effect of the two following concerts, when I flattered myself I might count on the success of the efforts that were being made to arouse interest in the highest circles.
My friend Prince Liechtenstein thought this was by no means impossible, and believed he might manage to interest the Imperial Court through Countess Zamoiska, one of the ladies-in-waiting, and he one day accompanied me through the interminable corridors of the Imperial Castle on a visit to this lady. I afterwards learned that Mme. Kalergis had also been at work here on my behalf, but she had apparently only succeeded in winning over the young Empress, for she alone was present at the performance, and without any retinue. But at the second concert I had to endure all kinds of disillusionment. In spite of all warnings to the contrary, I had fixed it for the New Year's Day of 1863. The hall was exceedingly badly filled, and my sole satisfaction was to know that by improving the acoustic properties of the place the orchestra sounded extremely well. In consequence of this the reception of the various pieces was so favourable that at the third concert, on 8th January, I was able to perform before an overflowing house, and thus obtained very gratifying testimony to the fine musical taste of the Viennese public. The by no means startling prelude to Pogner's Anrede from the Meistersinger was enthusiastically encored, in spite of the fact that the singer had already risen to his feet for the next part. At this moment I chanced to see in one of the boxes a most comforting omen for my present position; for I recognised Mme. Kalergis, who had just arrived for a prolonged stay in Vienna, to which I fondly imagined she was prompted by some idea of helping me here also. As she too was on friendly terms with Standhartner, she at once entered into consultation with him as to how I could be helped out of the critical situation in which I was once more placed by the expenses of my concerts. She confessed to our mutual friend that she had no means at her disposal, and would only be able to meet our extraordinary expenditure by contracting fresh debts. It was therefore necessary to secure wealthier patrons, among whom she mentioned Baroness von Stockhausen, the wife of the Hanoverian ambassador. This lady, who was a great friend of Standhartner's, was most kind to me, and won me the sympathy of Lady Bloomfield and her husband, the English ambassador. A soiree was given in the house of the latter, and at Frau von Stockhausen's there were also several evening assemblies. One day Standhartner brought me a thousand marks as an instalment towards my expenses, saying that they came from an anonymous donor. Meanwhile Mme. Kalergis had managed to procure two thousand marks, which were also placed at my disposal, through Standhartner, for further needs. But all her efforts to interest the court on my behalf remained entirely fruitless, in spite of her intimacy with Countess Zamoiska; for unfortunately a member of that Konneritz family from Saxony, which was everywhere turning up for my discomfiture, had now appeared as ambassador here also. He succeeded in suppressing any inclination the all- powerful Archduchess Sophie might have had towards me, by pretending that during his time I had burnt down the King of Saxony's castle.
But my patroness, undaunted still, endeavoured to helpme in every conceivable way demanded by my necessities. In order to gratify my most earnest longing for a peaceful home where I could stay for a while, she managed to secure the house of the English attache, a son of the famous Bulwer Lytton, who had been called away, but was keeping up his establishment for some time longer. Thus through her I was introduced to this exceedingly amiable young man. I dined with him one evening, together with Cornelius and Mme. Kalergis, and after dinner began to read them my Gotterdammerung. I did not seem to have secured a very attentive audience, however, and when I noticed this I stopped and withdrew with Cornelius. We found it very cold as we went home, and Bulwer's rooms seem also to have been insufficiently heated, so that we took refuge in a restaurant to drink a glass of hot punch. The incident has remained fixed in my memory because here for the first time I saw Cornelius in an ungovernably eccentric humour. While we thus took our pleasure, Mine. Kalergis used her influence – so I was afterwards informed – as an exceedingly powerful and irresistible female advocate to inspire Bulwer with a definite interest in my fate. In this she so far succeeded, that he unconditionally placed his house at my disposal for nine mouths. On considering the matter more deeply, however, I did not see what advantage this would be to me, seeing that I had no further prospect of earning any income in Vienna for my sustenance.
On the other hand, my plans were decided for me by an offer which reached me from St. Petersburg to conduct two concerts there in the month of March for the Philharmonic Society for a fee of two thousand silver roubles. For this also I had to thank Mme. Kalergis, who urgently counselled me to accept the invitation, holding out at the same time a prospect of further increasing my receipts by giving an additional concert on my own account, from which very important material results might be expected. The only thing which could have induced me to decline this invitation would have been an assurance that my Tristan would be staged in Vienna during the next few months; but a fresh indisposition on the part of the tenor Ander had once more brought our preparations to a standstill, and moreover I had completely lost all faith in those promises which had lured me again to Vienna. To this the effect of my visit to the minister Schmerling immediately on my return to Vienna had certainly contributed. This man had been much astonished at my referring to a recommendation by Prince Metternich, for the latter, so the minister declared, had never spoken a word to him about me. Nevertheless, he very politely assured me that it needed no such recommendation to interest him in a man of my merit. When, therefore, I mentioned the idea suggested by Prince Metternich's kindness that the Emperor might assign me some special position in Vienna, he hastened at once to inform me that he was completely powerless to influence any of the Emperor's decisions. This admission on the part of Herr von Schmerling certainly helped to explain Prince Metternich's behaviour, and I concluded that the latter had preferred an attempt to win the Chief Chamberlain for a serious revival of Tristan to a fruitless effort with the minister.
As these prospects were therefore thrust into the uncertain future, I now agreed to the St. Petersburg proposal, but first of all sought about for means to provide the necessary funds. For these I relied on a concert which Heinrich Porges had already arranged for me in Prague. Consequently early in February I set out for that city, and had every reason to be satisfied with my reception there. Young Forges, an out-and-out partisan of Liszt and myself, pleased me greatly, not only personally, but by his obvious enthusiasm. The concert took place at the hall on the Sophia Island, and was crowned with great success. Besides one of Beethoven's symphonies, several selections from my newer works were given, and when next day Porges paid me about two thousand marks, with the reservation of a few smaller supplementary payments, I laughingly assured him that this was the first money I had ever earned by my own exertions. He also gave me some very pleasant introductions to several exceedingly devoted and intelligent young people, belonging both to the German and Czech parties, and among them to a teacher of mathematics called Lieblein, and an author whose name was Musiol. It was with a certain pathetic interest that, after so many years, I here discovered a friend of my earliest youth, named Marie Lowe, who had given up singing and taken to the harp instead, and was now engaged to play this instrument in the orchestra, in which capacity she assisted at my concert. On the occasion of the first performance of Tannhauser in Prague, she had sent me a most enthusiastic report about it. Her admiration was now intensified, and for many years afterwards she remained tenderly attached to me. Well satisfied then, and filled with newly awakened hope. I hurried back to Vienna again in order to put the arrangement for Tristan on as firm a basis as possible. It was found feasible to arrange another pianoforte rehearsal in my presence of the two first acts, and I was astonished at the really passable performance of the tenor, while from Frau Dustmann I could not withhold my sincerest congratulations on her admirable execution of her difficult part. It was therefore decided that my work should be produced a little after Easter, which would fit in very well with the expected date of my return from Russia.
The hope of being now able to count on earning a large income decided me to revive my former idea of settling for good in the peace and quiet of Biebrich. As there was still time before I had to start for Russia, I returned to the Rhine to arrange matters there as rapidly as possible. Once more I lodged in Frickhofer's house, and in the company of Mathilde Maier and her friend Luise Wagner once more hunted through the Rheingau in search of a suitable house. Not finding what I wanted, I finally entered into treaty with Frickhofer for the erection of a small cottage on a plot of land I proposed to buy near his villa. Dr. Schuler, the man who had been introduced to me by young Stadl, was to take the matter in hand, as he had both legal and business experience. Estimates were prepared, and it now depended entirely on the amount of my Russian receipts as to whether the undertaking could be begun in the following spring or not. As in any case I had to give up my rooms in Frickhofer's house at Easter, I removed all my furniture and sent it packed to the furniture-dealer in Wiesbaden, to whom I was still indebted for the greater part of it.
Thus in the best of spirits I went first to Berlin, where I called at once on Bulow. Cosima, who was expecting an early confinement, seemed delighted to see me again, and insisted on accompanying me at once to the music-school, where we should find Hans. I entered a long room, at one end of which Bulow was giving a music-lesson. As I stood for some time in silence in the doorway, he gave an exclamation of anger at being disturbed, only to burst out into joyful laughter on recognising who it was. Our midday meal together was lively, and in excellent humour I set out with Cosima alone for a drive in a fine carriage (belonging to the Hotel de Russie), whose grey satin lining and cushions provided us with endless fun. Bulow seemed troubled that I should see his wife in a condition of advanced pregnancy, as I had once expressed my aversion from such a sight when speaking of another woman of our acquaintance. It put us into a good-humour to be able to set his mind at rest in this case, for nothing could possibly put me out of sympathy with Cosima. So, sharing my hopes and heartily rejoicing in the turn of my fortune, these two friends accompanied me to the Konigsburg railway station and saw me off on my long night journey.
In Konigsburg I had to wait half a day and a night. As I had no desire to revisit my haunts in a place which had once been so fatal to me, I spent the time quietly in the room of an hotel, the position of which I did not even try to fix, and early in the morning continued my journey towards the Russian frontier. With certain uneasy memories of my former illegal passage of this frontier, I carefully scanned the faces of my fellow-passengers during the long hours of travel. Among these I was especially struck by one, a Livland nobleman of German descent, who, in the haughtiest German Tory tone, proclaimed his disgust at the Tsar's emancipation of the serfs. He wished me clearly to understand that any efforts on the part of the Russians to obtain their freedom would receive but scant support from the German nobles settled in their midst. But as we approached St. Petersburg I was genuinely frightened to find our train suddenly stopped and examined by the police. They were apparently searching for various persons suspected of complicity in the latest Polish insurrection, which had just broken out. Not far from the capital itself the empty seats in our carriage were filled by several people, whose high Russian fur caps aroused my suspicions, which were not allayed by the attention which their wearers bestowed upon me in particular. But suddenly the face of one of them brightened up, and he impulsively turned towards me and saluted me as the man whom he and several other musicians of the Imperial orchestra had come out on purpose to meet. They were all Germans, and on our arrival at the St. Petersburg railway station they joyfully introduced me to a further large contingent from the orchestra, headed by the committee of the Philharmonic Society. I had been recommended to a German boarding-house on the Newsky Prospect as a suitable residence. There I was very graciously and flatteringly received by Frau Kunst, the wife of a German merchant, in a drawing-room whose windows commanded a view of the wide and busy street, and where I was very well served. I dined in common with the other boarders and visitors, and often invited Alexander Seroff, whom I had formerly known in Lucerne, to be my guest at table. He had called on me immediately on my arrival, and I learned that he held a very poor appointment as censor of German newspapers. His person bore signs of much neglect and ill- health, and proved that he had had a hard struggle for existence; but he speedily won my respect by the great independence and truthfulness of his opinions, whereby, combined with an excellent understanding, I soon learned that he had won himself a reputation as a most influential and much-dreaded critic. I appreciated this better later on when advances were made to me from high quarters to use my influence with Seroff to assuage the bitterness of his persecution of Anton Rubinstein, who just at that time was being somewhat offensively patronised. On my mentioning the matter to him, he explained his reasons for believing Rubinstein's influence in Russia to be pernicious, whereupon I begged him, for my sake at least, to hold his hand a little, as I did not wish, during my brief stay in St. Petersburg, to pose as Rubinstein's rival. To this he replied with all the violence of a sickly man, 'I hate him, and cannot make any concessions.' With me, on the contrary, he entered into the most intimate understanding, as he had so perfect an appreciation of me and my art that our intercourse became almost one of mere pleasantry, for on all serious points we were in entire agreement. Nothing could equal the care with which he sought to help me at every opportunity. He provided the necessary translation into Russian, both of the songs contained in the selections taken from my operas and of my explanatory programme for the concerts. He also displayed the utmost judgment in choosing the most suitable singers for me, and for this he appeared to find abundant recompense in attending the rehearsals and performances. His radiant face beamed everywhere upon me with encouragement and fresh inspiration. I was eminently satisfied with the orchestra which I managed to gather around me in the large and handsome hall of the Society of Nobles. It contained one hundred and twenty picked players from the Imperial orchestras, who were for the most part excellent musicians, usually employed in accompanying Italian opera and ballets. They now seemed delighted to be allowed to breathe more freely in thus occupying themselves with nobler music under a method of conducting which I had made peculiarly my own.
After the great success of my first concert advances were made to me from those circles to which, as I could very well understand, I had been secretly but influentially recommended by Mme. Kalergis. With great circumspection my unseen protectress had prepared the way for my presentation to the Grand Duchess Helene. I was instructed, in the first place, to make use of a recommendation from Standhartner to Dr. Arneth, the Grand Duchess's private physician, whom he had known in Vienna, in order through him to be introduced to Fraulein von Rhaden, her most confidential lady-in-waiting. I should have been well content with the acquaintance of this lady alone, for in her I learned to know a woman of wide culture, great intelligence, and noble bearing, whose ever-growing interest in me I perceived to be mingled with a certain timidity, apparently concerned chiefly with the Grand Duchess. She gave me the impression that she felt something more important ought to happen for me than, from the spirit and character of her mistress, she could expect. I was, however, not taken to pay my respects to the Grand Duchess at once, but received first of all an invitation to an evening party in the apartments of the lady-in-waiting, at which, among others, the Grand Duchess herself was to be present. Here Anton Rubinstein did the musical honours, and after the hostess had introduced me to him, she ventured to present me to the Grand Duchess herself. The ceremony went off fairly well, and, as a result, I shortly afterwards received a direct invitation to a friendly evening tea-party at the Grand Duchess's house. Here, in addition to Fraulein von Rhaden, I met the lady next to her in rank, Fraulein von Stahl, as well as a genial old gentleman, who was introduced to me as General von Brebern, for many years one of the Grand Duchess's closest friends. Fraulein von Rhaden appeared to have made extraordinary efforts on my behalf, which for the present resulted in the Grand Duchess expressing a wish that I should make her better acquainted with the text of my Nibelungen Ring. As I had no copy of the work with me, although Weber of Leipzig ought by this time to have finished printing it, they insisted that I should at once telegraph to him in Leipzig to send the finished sheets with the utmost despatch to the Grand Duchess's address. Meanwhile my patrons had to be content with hearing me read the Meistersinger. To this reading the Grand Duchess Marie was also induced to come – a very stately and still beautiful daughter of the Tsar Nicholas, who was notorious for the passion she had shown throughout her life. As to the impression made upon this lady by my poem, Fraulein von Rhaden only told me that she had been seriously alarmed lest Hans Sachs might end by marrying Eva.
In the course of a few days the loose proof-sheets of my Nibelungen work duly arrived, and the Grand Duchess's intimates met at four tea-parties to hear me read it, and listened with sympathetic attention. General von Brebern was present at them all, but only, as Fraulein von Rhaden said, 'to blush like the rose' in profoundest slumber, a habit which always afforded a subject for merriment to Fraulein von Stahl, a very lively and beautiful woman, when each night I accompanied the two court ladies from the spacious salons along endless corridors and staircases to their distant apartments.
The only other person in the great world whom I learned to know here was Count Wilohorsky, who occupied a high position of trust at the Imperial court, and was chiefly esteemed as a patron of music, and considered himself a distinguished violoncello-player. The old gentleman appeared well disposed towards me, and altogether satisfied with my musical performances. Indeed, he assured me that he had first learned to understand Beethoven's Eighth Symphony (in F major) through my interpretation. He also considered that he had fully grasped my overture to the Meistersinger, and said the Grand Duchess Marie was affected because she had found this piece incomprehensible, but had expressed herself enraptured by the overture to Tristan, which he himself only managed to understand by the exertion of all his musical knowledge. When I told Seroff of this, he exclaimed enthusiastically, 'Ah, that beast of a Count! That woman knows what love is!'
The Count arranged a splendid dinner in my honour, at which both Anton Rubinstein and Mme. Abaza were present. As I begged Rubinstein to play something after dinner, Mme. Abaza insisted on singing his Persian songs, which seemed greatly to annoy the composer, as he knew very well that he had produced much finer work. Nevertheless both the composition and its execution gave me a very favourable opinion of the talents of both artists. Through this singer, who had originally had a professional engagement in the Grand Duchess's household, and was now married to a wealthy and cultured Russian gentleman of rank, I obtained an entry into the house of M. Abaza, who received me with great ceremony. About the same time a certain Baron Vittinghof had also made himself known to me as an enthusiastic lover of music, and honoured me with an invitation to his house, where I met once more with Ingeborg Stark, the beautiful Swedish pianist and composer of sonatas, whom I had formerly known in Paris. She amazed me by the impertinent outburst of laughter with which she accompanied the performance of one of the Baron's compositions. On the other hand, she assumed a more serious air when she informed me that she was engaged to Hans von Bronsart.
Rubinstein, with whom I exchanged friendly visits, behaved very creditably, although, as I had expected, he felt himself somewhat injured by me. He told me that he was thinking of resigning his position in St. Petersburg, as it had been made difficult by Seroff's antagonism. It was also thought advisable to introduce me to the commercial circles of St. Petersburg, with a view to my coming benefit concert, and a visit was consequently arranged to a concert in the hall of the Merchants' Guild. Here I was met on the staircase by a drunken Russian, who announced himself as the conductor. With a small selection of Imperial musicians and others, he conducted the overtures of Rossini's Tell and Weber's Oberon, in which the kettledrums were replaced by a small military drum, which produced a wonderful effect, especially in the lovely transfiguration part of the Oberon Overture.
Although I was admirably equipped for my own concerts as far as the orchestra was concerned, yet I had much trouble in procuring the requisite singers. The soprano was very passably represented by Mlle. Bianchi; but for the tenor parts I had to make shift with a M. Setoff, who, although possessing plenty of courage, had very little voice. But he managed to help me through the 'Schmiede-Lieder' in Siegfried, for his presence at least gave an appearance of song, while the orchestra alone undertookthe effective reality. On the conclusion of my two concerts for the Philharmonic Society, I set seriously to work on my own concert, which was to be held in the Imperial Opera House, in the material arrangements for which I was helped by a retired musician. This man often spent hours with Seroff in my well-heated rooms without laying aside his enormous fur coat, and as his incapacity gave us a great deal of trouble, we agreed that he was like 'the sheep in wolf's clothing.' The concert, however, succeeded beyond all my expectations, and I do not think I was ever so enthusiastically received by any audience as on this occasion. Indeed, their greeting when I first appeared was so loudly prolonged that I felt quite touched, a rare occurrence with me. To this wild abandonment on the part of the audience the ardent devotion of my orchestra naturally contributed, as my one hundred and twenty musicians renewed the frantic acclamations again and again, a procedure which appeared to be quite novel in St. Petersburg. From some of them I heard such exclamations as, 'We must admit we have never known what music is till now.'
Conductor Schuberth, who, with a certain amount of condescension, had helped me with advice on business matters, now utilised this favourable turn of affairs to ask for my co-operation at a concert to be given shortly for his own benefit. Although I was fully aware that by this means he reckoned on conjuring a handsome profit out of my pocket into his own, yet on the advice of my friends I thought it best to comply with his request, albeit much against the grain. So a week later I repeated the most popular items of my programme before an equally numerous audience and with the same success, but this time the handsome receipts of three thousand roubles were destined for an invalid man, who as a retribution for this encroachment on my rights was suddenly summoned to another world in the same year.
To balance this, I now had a prospect of further artistic and material successes from a contract concluded with General Lwoff, the manager of the Moscow theatre. I was to give three concerts in the Grand Theatre, of which I was to have half the receipts, guaranteed in each case at a minimum of one thousand roubles. I arrived there suffering from a cold, miserable and ill at ease, in weather which was a mixture of frost and thaw, and put up at a badly situated German boarding-house. My preliminary arrangements were made with the manager, who, in spite of the orders hanging from his neck, looked a very insignificant person, and the difficult selection of the vocal items had to be arranged with a Russian tenor and a superannuated Italian lady-singer. Having settled these, I entered upon the task of orchestral rehearsals. It was here that I first met the younger Rubinstein, Anton's brother Nicholas, who, as director of the Russian Musical Society, was the leading authority in his profession in Moscow; his demeanour towards me was characterised throughout by modesty and consideration. The orchestra consisted of the hundred musicians who provided the Imperial household with Italian opera and ballet. It was, on the whole, far inferior to that of St. Petersburg, yet among them I found a small number of excellent quartette players, all devotedly attached to me. Among these was one of my old Riga acquaintances, the 'cellist von Lutzau, who in those days had a great reputation as a wag. But I was particularly pleased with a certain Herr Albrecht, a violinist, a brother of the Albrecht who was one of the party whose Russian fur caps had so scared me on my way to St. Petersburg. But even these men could not dispel my feeling that in dealing with this Moscow orchestra I had descended in the artistic scale. I gave myself a great deal of trouble without deriving any compensating satisfaction, and my bile was not a little stirred by the Russian tenor, who came to rehearsal in a red shirt, to show his patriotic aversion from my music, and sang the 'Schmiede-Lieder' of Siegfried in the insipid style acquired from the Italians. On the very morning of the first concert I was obliged, to cancel it, and declare myself on the sick-list, with a bad, feverish cold. In the slush and snow which inundated the streets of Moscow it seems to have been impossible to announce this fact to the public, and I heard that angry disturbances resulted when many splendid equipages arrived on a fruitless errand and had to be turned away. After three days' rest I insisted on giving the three concerts I had contracted for within six days, an exertion to which I was spurred by a desire to have done with an undertaking I felt was not worthy of me. Although the Grand Theatre was filled on each occasion with a brilliant audience such as I had never before seen, yet, according to the calculations of the Imperial manager, the receipts did not exceed the amount of the guarantee. With this, however, I was content, considering the magnificent reception accorded to my efforts, and above all the fervid enthusiasm of the orchestra, which was expressed here as it had been in St. Petersburg. A deputation of members of the orchestra begged me to give a fourth concert, and on my refusal, they tried to persuade me to remain for another 'rehearsal,' but this too I was compelled to decline with a smile. However, the orchestra honoured me with a banquet, at which, after N. Rubinstein had made a very enthusiastic and appropriate speech, which was greeted with hearty and tumultuous applause, one of the company hoisted me on to his shoulders and carried me round the hall; whereupon there was a great outcry, and every one wanted to render me the same kindly service. I was presented on this occasion with a gold snuff-box from the members of the orchestra, on which was engraved the words 'Doch Einer kam,' from Siegmund's song in the Walkure. I returned the compliment by presenting to the orchestra a large photograph of myself, on which I wrote the words 'Keiner ging,' from the same song.
In addition to these musical circles I also became acquainted with Prince Odoiewsky, as the result of an introduction and strong recommendation by Mme. Kalergis. She had told me that in the Prince I should meet one of the noblest of men, who would fully understand me. After a most arduous drive of many hours, I reached his modest dwelling, and was received with patriarchal simplicity at his family mid-day dinner, but I found it exceedingly difficult to convey to him any particulars as to myself and my plans. With regard to any impressions I might be expected to gather respecting himself, he seemed to rely on the effect produced by the contemplation of a large instrument resembling an organ, which he had had designed and erected in one of his principal rooms. Unluckily there was no one there who could play it; but I could not help thinking it must have been intended for some specially devised form of divine worship, which he held there on Sundays for the benefit of his household, relatives and acquaintances. Ever mindful of my kindly patroness, I attempted to give the genial Prince some idea of my position and my aspirations. With apparent emotion he exclaimed, 'J'ai ce qu'il vous faut; parlez a Wolffsohn.' On further inquiry I learned that the guardian spirit thus commended to me was not a banker, but a Russian Jew who wrote romances.
All these events seemed to justify the conclusion that my receipts, especially if I included what I might still derive from St. Petersburg, would amply suffice to carry out my project of building a house at Biebrich. I therefore sent a telegram about it to my authorised agent in Wiesbaden from Moscow, and left there after a stay of only ten days. I also forwarded one thousand roubles to Minna, who was complaining that her expenses for settling down in Dresden were very heavy.
But, unfortunately, on reaching St. Petersburg I met with serious disappointments. Every one advised me to relinquish the idea of giving my second concert on Easter Monday, the date I had fixed, as it was the general custom in Russian society to reserve that day for private gatherings. On the other hand, I could not well refuse to give a concert, on the third day after the date announced for my own, on behalf of those imprisoned for debt in St. Petersburg, seeing that this was to be given at the urgent request of the Grand Duchess Helene herself. In this latter function all St. Petersburg was already interested for the sake of their own credit, as it was under the most distinguished patronage; so that, while every seat was sold in advance for this function, I had to be content with a very empty house at the Nobles' Casino, and with proceeds which luckily did at least cover expenses. By way of contrast, the debtors' concert went off with the greatest success, and General Suwarof, the governor of the city, a strikingly handsome man, handed me a very beautifully wrought silver drinking-horn as a thank-offering from the imprisoned debtors.
I now set about paying my farewell calls, one of which was on Fraulein von Rhaden, who distinguished herself by the warmth of her sympathy and interest. By way of compensating me for the loss of the receipts I had reckoned upon, the Grand Duchess sent me through this lady the sum of one thousand roubles, coupled with a promise that, until my circumstances improved, she would repeat the gift annually. On discovering this friendly interest, I could not help regretting that the connection thus formed was not likely to have more stable and profitable results. I addressed a petition through Fraulein von Rhaden to the Grand Duchess, praying that she would permit me to come to St. Petersburg for a few months every year, to place my talents at her disposal, both for concerts and theatrical performances, in return for which she would only have to pay me a suitable yearly salary. To this I received an evasive reply. On the day before my departure I informed my amiable guardian of my plan for settling at Biebrich, and in doing so I made no secret of my fear that after spending the money I had earned here in carrying out my building plan, my condition might be very much the same as of yore, a fear which made me wonder whether it would not be better to abandon it altogether. Whereupon I received the spirited reply: 'Build and hope!' At the last moment before starting I gratefully answered her in the same manner, and said that I now knew what to do. Thus at the end of April I departed, carrying with me the hearty good wishes of Seroff and the enthusiastic members of the orchestra, and steamed away across the Russian wilderness without calling at Riga, where I had been invited to give a concert. The long and weary road brought me at last to the frontier station of Wirballen, where I received a telegram from Fraulein von Rhaden: 'Not too rash.' This was in reference to a few lines I had left behind for her, and it conveyed quite enough to revive my doubts as to the wisdom of carrying out my house-building plans.
I reached Berlin without further delay, and at once made for Bulow's house. During the last few months I had heard no news of Cosima's condition, and it was, therefore, with some trepidation that I stood at the door, through which the maid did not seem disposed to let me pass, saying that 'her mistress was not well.' 'Is she seriously ill?' I asked, and receiving a smilingly evasive reply, at once realised to my joy the true situation, and hastened in to greet Cosima. She had been some time delivered of her daughter Blandine, and was now on the highroad to complete recovery. It was only from casual callers that she remained secluded. Everything seemed well, and Hans was quite gay, the more so that he now thought me freed from all care for some time to come, owing to the success of my Russian trip. But I could not regard this assumption as justified, unless my wish to be invited for some months every year to St. Petersburg for renewed activity there met with a ready response. On this point I was enlightened in a more detailed letter from Fraulein von Rhaden following the above telegram, in which she told me on no account to rely upon this invitation. This distinct statement compelled me to reckon up the balance of my Russian receipts very seriously, and after deducting hotel and travelling expenses, the money sent to Minna, and certain payments to the furniture dealer at Wiesbaden, I found I had very little more than twelve thousand marks left. So the scheme of buying land and building a house had to be relinquished. But Cosima's excellent health and high spirits dispelled all anxious thought for the present. We drove out again in a splendid carriage, and in the most extravagant of good humours, through the avenues of the Tiergarten, dined to our hearts' content at the Hotel de Russie, and made up our minds that bad times had fled for ever.
For the immediate present my plans were directed towards Vienna. I had recently heard that Tristan had once more been abandoned, this time owing to the indisposition of Frau Dustmann. In order to have this important matter more directly under my own supervision, and also because I had formed no such intimate artistic ties with any other German city as with Vienna, I clung to this as the most suitable place in which to settle. Tausig, whom I now met there in excellent health and spirits, entirely confirmed me in this opinion, and still further strengthened it by undertaking to find me precisely the pleasant and quiet dwelling in the neighbourhood of Vienna that I had set my mind upon, and through his own landlord he succeeded in getting something exactly to my taste. In what had been the pleasant abode of old Baron von Rackowitz at Penzing, I was offered the most delightful accommodation for a yearly rent of two thousand four hundred marks. I could have the entire upper part of the house and the exclusive use of a shady and fairly large garden. In the housekeeper, Franz Mrazek, I found a very obliging man, whom I at once took into my service, together with his wife Anna, an exceedingly gifted and obliging woman. For many years, amid ever-changing fortunes, this couple remained faithful to me. I now had to begin spending money in order to make my long-desired asylum fit and cosy both for rest and work. The remnant of my household belongings, including iny Erard grand, was sent on from Biebrich, as well as the new furniture I had found it necessary to buy. On the 12th of May, in lovely spring weather, I took possession of my pleasant home, and for a while wasted much time over the exciting cares connected with the fitting up of my comfortable apartments. It was at this period that my connection with Phillip Haas and Sons was first established, which was destined with the lapse of time to give me some cause for anxiety. For the moment every exertion expended on a domicile associated with so many hopes only helped to put me into the best of spirits. The grand-piano arrived in due course, and with the addition of various engravings after Raphael, which had fallen to my lot in the Biebrich division, my music-room was completely furnished in readiness for the 22nd of May, when celebrated my fiftieth birthday. In honour of the occasion the Merchants' Choral Society gave me an evening serenade with Chinese-lantern illuminations, in which a deputation of students also joined and greeted me with an enthusiastic oration. I had laid in a supply of wine, and everything passed off excellently. The Mrazeka looked after my housekeeping fairly well, and thanks to the culinary arts of Anna, I was able to invite Tausig and Cornelius to dine with me pretty frequently.
But I was soon in great trouble again, on account of Minna, who bitterly reproached me for everything I did. Having made up my mind never to answer her again, I wrote this time to her daughter Nathalie – who was still in ignorance of the relationship between them – referring her to my decision of the previous year. On the other hand, the fact that I sadly stood in need just now of some womanly attentions and care in the management of the household became abundantly clear to me when I expressed to Mathilde Maier of Mayence the ingenuous wish that she would come and supply the deficiency.
I had certainly thought that my good friend was sensible enough to interpret my meaning correctly without feeling put to the blush, and I was very likely right, but I had not made sufficient allowance for her mother and her bourgeois surroundings generally. She appears to have been thrown into the greatest excitement by my proposal, while her friend Louise Wagner was in the end so powerfully influenced that she frankly advised me, with homely shrewdness and precision, to obtain a legal separation from my wife first of all, after which everything else would be easily arranged. Grievously shocked, I at once withdrew my offer, as having been made without due deliberation, and strove as far as possible to allay the excitement thus produced. On the other hand, Friederike Meyer's inexplicable fate still caused me much involuntary anxiety. After she had spent several months of the previous winter in Venice, apparently to her benefit, I had written to her from St. Petersburg suggesting that she should meet me at the Bulows' in Berlin. I had taken into mature consideration the kindly interest which Cosima had conceived for her, with a view to discussing what steps we could take to bring order into our friend's flagrantly disorganised circumstances. She did not appear, however, but wrote instead to inform me that she had taken up her abode with a lady friend at Coburg, as her very delicate state of health seriously interfered with her theatrical career, and was endeavouring to maintain herself by occasional appearances at the small theatre there. It was obvious that for many reasons I could not send her an invitation such as that sent to Mathilde Maier, though she expressed a violent desire to see me once more for a short time, assuring me that afterwards she would for ever leave me in peace. I could only regard it as purposeless and risky to accede to this wish just then, though I kept the idea in reserve for the future. During the course of the summer she repeated the same request from several places, until, as I was engaged late in the autumn for a concert at Karlsruhe, I at last appointed that time and place for the desired meeting. From that time forth I never received the slightest communication from this most singular and attractive friend of mine, and as, moreover, I did not know where she was, I looked upon our connection as severed. Not until many years later was the secret of her position – certainly a very difficult one – revealed to me, and from the facts then stated I could only conclude that she shrank from telling me the truth concerning her connection with Herr von Guaita. It appeared that this man had much more serious claims upon her than I had suspected, and she had apparently been compelled by the necessities of her situation to accept his protection, as he was the only friend left to her, while his devotion was undeniably genuine. I heard that she was then living in complete retirement both from the stage and from society on a tiny estate on the Rhine with her two children, being, it was believed, secretly married to Herr von Guaita.
But my careful and elaborate preparations for a quiet spell of work had not yet been successful. A burglary in the house, which robbed me of the golden snuff-box presented by the Moscow musicians, renewed my old longing to have a dog. My kind old landlord consequently handed over to me an old and somewhat neglected hound named Pohl, one of the most affectionate and excellent animals that ever attached itself to me. In his company I daily undertook long excursions on foot, for which the very pleasant neighbourhood afforded admirable opportunities. Nevertheless I was still rather lonely, as Tausig was confined to bed for a long time by severe illness, while Cornelius was suffering from an injured foot, the result of a careless descent from an omnibus when visiting Penzing. Meanwhile I was in constant friendly intercourse with Standhartner and his family. Fritz, the younger brother of Heinrich Porges, had also begun to visit me. He was a doctor who had just set up practice, a really nice fellow, whose acquaintance with me dated from the serenade of the Merchants' Glee Club, of which he had been the originator.
I was now convinced that there was no longer any chance of having Tristan produced at the Opera, as I had found out that Frau Dustmann's indisposition was merely a feint, Herr Ander's complete loss of voice having been the real cause of the last interruption. Good old Conductor Esser tried hard to persuade me to assign the part of Tristan to another tenor of the theatre named Walter, but the very idea of him was so odious to me that I could not even bring myself to hear him in Lohengrin. I therefore let the matter sink into oblivion, and concentrated myself exclusively on getting into touch with the Meistersinger again. I first set to work on the instrumentation of the completed portion of the first act, of which I had only arranged detached fragments as yet. But as summer approached, the old anxiety as to my future subsistence began to pervade all my thoughts and sensations in the present. It was clear that, if I were to fulfil all my responsibilities, particularly with regard to Minna, I should soon have to think of undertaking some lucrative enterprise again.
It was therefore most opportune when a quite unexpected invitation from the management of the National Theatre in Buda- Pesth reached me to give two concerts there, in compliance with which I went at the end of July to the Hungarian capital, and was received by the manager Radnodfay. There I met a really very talented violinist named Remenyi, who at one time had been a protege of Liszt, and showed boundless admiration for me, even declaring that the invitation to me had been given entirely on his initiative. Although there was no prospect of large earnings here, as I had professed myself content to accept a thousand marks for each of the two concerts, I had reason to be pleased both with their success and with the great interest manifested by the audience. In this city, where the Magyar opposition to Austria was still at its strongest, I made the acquaintance of some exceedingly gifted and distinguished-looking young men, among them Herr Rosti, of whom I have a pleasant recollection. They organised a truly idyllic festivity for me, in the form of a feast, held by a few intimates on an island in the Danube, where we gathered under an ancient oak tree, as though for a patriarchal ceremony. A young lawyer, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, had undertaken to propose the toast of the evening, and filled me with amazement and deep emotion, not only by the fire of his delivery, but also by the truly noble earnestness of his ideas, which he based upon a perfect knowledge of all my works and undertakings. We returned home down the Danube in the small boats of the Rowing Club, of which my hosts were members, and on our way had to face a hurricane, which lashed the mighty stream into the wildest tumult. There was only one lady in our party, Countess Bethlen-Gabor, who was seated with me in a narrow boat. Rosti and a friend of his who had the oars were concerned solely with the fear that our boat would be shivered against one of the timber-rafts, towards which the flood was carrying us, and therefore exerted themselves to the utmost to avoid them; whereas I could see no other way of escape, especially for the lady sitting beside me, than by boarding one of these very rafts. In order to effect this (against the wish of our two oarsmen) I seized with one hand a projecting peg on a raft we were passing and held our little vessel fast, and, while the two rowers screamed that the Ellida would be lost, quickly hoisted the lady out of the skiff on to the raft, across which we walked to the shore, calmly leaving our friends to save the Ellida as best they could. We two then continued our way along the bank through a terrific storm of rain, but yet on safe and sure ground, towards the city. My conduct in presence of this danger did not fail to increase the respect in which my friends held me, as was proved by a banquet given in a public garden at which a great number of my admirers were present. Here they treated me quite in Hungarian style. An enormous band of gipsy musicians was drawn up, and greeted me with the Rakoczy March as I approached, while the assembled guests joined in with impetuous shouts of 'Eljen!' There were also fiery orations with appreciative allusions to myself and my influence which extended far and wide throughout Germany. The introductory parts of these speeches were always in Hungarian, and were meant to excuse the fact that the main oration would be delivered in German for the sake of their guest. Here I noticed that they never spoke of me as 'Richard Wagner,' but as 'Wagner Richard.'
Even the highest military officials were not behindhand in offering me their homage, through the medium of Field-Marshal Coronini. The Count invited me to a performance by the military bands in the castle at Ofen, where I was graciously received by him and his family, treated to ices, and then conducted to a balcony whence I listened to a concert given by the massed bands. The effect of all these demonstrations was exceedingly refreshing, and I almost regretted having to leave the rejuvenating atmosphere of Buda-Pesth, and return to my dull and musty Viennese asylum.
On the homeward journey, in the beginning of August, I travelled part of the way with Herr von Seebach, the amiable Saxon Ambassador, whom I had known in Paris. He complained of the enormous losses he had incurred through the difficulty of administering the South Russian estates he had acquired by marriage, and from which he was just returning. On the other hand, I was able to reassure him as to my own position, which seemed to give him genuine pleasure.
The small receipts from my Buda-Pesth concerts, of which, moreover, I had only been able to carry away half, were not calculated to afford me any effectual relief as to the future. Having now staked my all on what I trusted might be a permanent establishment, the first question was how best to secure a salary, which should at least be certain though not necessarily over-large. Meanwhile I did not consider myself bound to abandon my St. Petersburg connection, nor the plans I had founded upon it. Nor did I entirely disbelieve the assurances of Remenyi, who boasted that he had great influence with the Magyar magnates, and assured me it would be no great matter to obtain a pension in Buda-Pesth, such as I had thought of securing in St. Petersburg and involving similar obligations. He did, in fact, visit me soon after my return to Penzing, accompanied by his adopted son, young Plotenyi, whose extraordinary good looks and amiability made a very favourable impression on me. As for the father himself, although he won my warm approbation by his brilliant performance of the Rakoczy March on the violin, yet I quickly perceived that his glowing promises had been meant rather to create an immediate impression on me than to ensure any permanent result. In accordance with his own desire, I very soon afterwards lost sight of him altogether.
While still obliged to busy myself with plans for concert tours, I was able meantime to enjoy the pleasant shade of my garden during the intense heat, and I used to go for long rambles every evening with my faithful dog Pohl, the most refreshing of these being by way of the dairy-farm at St. Veit, where delicious milk was available. My small social circle was still restricted to Cornelius and Tausig, who was at last restored to health, although he disappeared from my sight for some time owing to his intercourse with wealthy Austrian officers. But I was frequently joined on my excursions by the younger Porges, and for a time by the elder also. My niece Ottilie Brockhaus too, who was living with the family of her mother's friend Heinrich Laube, occasionally delighted me with a visit.
But whenever I settled down seriously to work, I was goaded afresh by an uneasy apprehension as to the means of subsistence. As another journey to Russia was out of the question until the following Easter, only German towns could serve my purpose for the present. From many quarters, as for instance from Darmstadt, I received unfavourable replies; and from Karlsruhe, where I had applied direct to the Grand Duke, the answer was indefinite. But the severest blow to my confidence was a direct refusal which came in response to the application I had at last made to St. Petersburg, the acceptance of which would have ensured a regular salary. This time the excuse made was that the Polish revolution of that summer had paralysed the spirit of artistic enterprise.
Pleasanter news, however, came from Moscow, where they held out prospects of some good concerts for the coming year. I next bethought me of a very sound suggestion about Kieff made to me by Setoff the singer, who thought there was a prospect of a highly profitable engagement there. I entered into correspondence on the matter, and was again put off until the following Easter, when all the smaller Russian nobility congregated at Kieff. These were all plans for the future which, if I then had considered them in detail at that time, would have been enough to rob me of all peace of mind for my work. In any case there was a long interval during which I must provide, not only for myself, but also for Minna. Any prospect of a position in Vienna had to be handled most warily, so that, with the approach of autumn, there was nothing left me but to raise money on loan, a business in which Tausig was able to help me, as he possessed extraordinary experience in such matters.
I could not help wondering whether I should have to give up my Penzing establishment, but, on the other hand, what alternative was open to me? Every time I was seized with the desire to compose, these cares obtruded themselves on my mind, until, seeing that it was only a question of putting things off from day to day, I was driven to take up the study of Dunker's Geschichte des Alterthums. In the end my correspondence about concerts swallowed up the whole of my time. I first asked Heinrich Porges to see what he could arrange in Prague. He also held out a reasonable prospect of a concert at Lowenberg, relying upon the favourable disposition of the Prince of Hohenzollern, who lived there. I was also advised to apply to Hans von Bronsart, who at this time was conductor to a private orchestral society in Dresden. He responded loyally to my proposition, and between us we settled the date and programme of a concert to be conducted by me in Dresden. As the Grand Duke of Baden had also placed his theatre at Karlsruhe at my disposal for a concert to be given in November, I thought I had now done enough in this direction to be entitled to take up something different. I therefore wrote a fairly long article for Uhl-Frobel's paper Der Botschafter on the Imperial Grand Opera House in Vienna, in which I made suggestions for a thorough reform of this very badly managed institution. The excellence of this article was at once acknowledged on all sides, even by the press; and I appear to have made some impression in the highest administrative circles, for I shortly afterwards heard from my friend Rudolf Liechtenstein, that tentative advances had been made to him with a view to his accepting the position of manager, associated with which there was certainly an idea of asking me to become conductor of the Grand Opera. Among the reasons which caused this proposal to fall through was the fear, Liechtenstein informed me, that under his direction people would hear nothing but 'Wagner operas.'
In the end it was a relief to escape from the anxieties of my position by starting on my concert tour. First I went to Prague, in the beginning of November, to try my luck again in the matter of big receipts. Unfortunately Heinrich Porges had not been able to take the arrangements in hand this time, and his deputies, who were very busy schoolmasters, were not at all his equals for the task. Expenses were increased, while receipts diminished, for they had not ventured to ask such high prices as before. I wished to repair this deficiency by a second concert a few days later, and insisted on the point, although my friends urgently dissuaded me, and, as the event proved, they were quite right. This time the receipts hardly covered the costs, and as I had been obliged to send away the proceeds of the first concert to redeem an old bill in Vienna, I had no other means of paying my hotel expenses and my fare home than by accepting the offer of a banker, who posed as a patron, to help me out of my embarrassment.
In the chastened mood induced by these occurrences I pursued my journey to Karlsruhe, via Nuremberg and Stuttgart, under wretched conditions of severe cold and constant delays. At Karlsruhe I was at once surrounded by various friends, who had come there on hearing of my project. Richard Pohl from Baden, who never failed me, Mathilde Maier, Frau Betty Schott, the wife of my publisher; even Raff from Wiesbaden and Emilie Genast were there, as well as Karl Eckert, who had recently been appointed conductor at Stuttgart. Trouble began at once with the vocalists for my first concert, fixed for 14th November, as the baritone, Hauser, who was to sing 'Wotan's Farewell' and Hans Sachs's 'Cobbler Song,' was ill and had to be replaced by a voiceless though well-drilled vaudeville singer. In Eduard Devrient's opinion this made no difference. My relations with him were strictly official, but he certainly carried out my instructions for the arrangement of the orchestra very correctly. From an orchestral point of view the concert went off so well that the Grand Duke, who received me very graciously in his box, desired a repetition in a week's time. To this proposal I raised serious objections, having learned by experience that the large attendances at such concerts, particularly at special prices, were mainly accounted for by the curiosity of the hearers, who often came from long distances; whereas the number of genuine students of art, whose interest was chiefly in the music, was but small. But the Grand Duke insisted, as he wished to give his mother-in-law, Queen Augusta, whose arrival was expected within a few days, the pleasure of hearing my production. I should have found it dreadfully wearisome to have to spend the intervening time in the solitude of my Karlsruhe hotel, but I received a kind invitation to Baden-Baden from Mme. Kalergis, who had just become Mme. Moukhanoff, and had gone to live there. She had, to my delight, been one of. those who came over for the concert, and was now on the station to meet me when I arrived. I felt I ought to decline her proffered escort into the town, not considering myself sufficiently smart in my 'brigand-hat,' but with the assurance, 'We all wear these brigand-hats here,' she took my arm, and thus we reached Pauline Viardot's villa, where we were to dine, as my friend's own house was not yet quite ready. Seated by my old acquaintance, I was now introduced to the Russian poet Turgenieff. Mme. Moukhanoff presented me to her husband with some hesitation, wondering what I should think of her marriage. Supported by her companions, who were all society people, she exerted herself to maintain a fairly lively conversation during the time we were together. Well satisfied by the admirable intention of my friend and benefactress, I again left Baden to fill up my time by a little trip to Zurich, where I again tried to get a few days' rest in the house of the Wesendonck family. The idea of assisting me did not seem even to dawn on these friends of mine, although I frankly informed them of my position. I therefore returned to Karlsruhe, where, on the 22nd of November, as I had foreseen, I gave my second concert to a poorly filled house. But, in the opinion of the Grand Duke and his wife, Queen Augusta's appreciation should have dispelled any unpleasant impressions I might have received. I was again summoned to the royal box, where I found all the court gathered round the Queen, who wore a blue rose on her forehead as an ornament. The few complimentary observations she had to offer were listened to by the members of the court with breathless attention; but when the royal lady had made a few general remarks, and was about to enter into details, she left all further demonstration to her daughter, who, as she said, knew more about it. The next day I received my share of the takings, half the net profits, which amounted to two hundred marks, and with this I at once bought myself a fur coat. The sum asked for it was two hundred and twenty marks, but when I explained that my receipts had only been two hundred marks, I managed to get the extra twenty knocked off the price. There was still the Grand Duke's private gift, consisting of a gold snuff- box with fifteen louis d'or, for which I, of course, returned my thanks in writing. I next had to face the question whether, after the toilsome fatigue of the past weeks, I would add to my disappointments by attempting to give the proposed concert in Dresden. Many considerations, practically everything indeed that I had to weigh in connection with a visit to Dresden, moved me to have the courage to write and tell Hans von Bronsart at the last moment to cancel all arrangements and not expect me there, a decision which, although it must have caused him much inconvenience after all the preparations he had kindly made, he accepted with a very good grace.
I still wanted to see what I could do with the firm of Schott, and travelled by night to Mayence, where Mathilde Maier's family insisted on my spending the day at their little house, where I was entertained in a simple and friendly fashion. During the day and night I spent here in the narrow Karthausergasse, I was waited upon with the greatest care, and from this outpost I assaulted the publishing house of Schott, though without securing much booty. This was because I refused my consent to a separate issue of the various selections from my new works which had been picked out and prepared for concert use.
As my only remaining source of profit now seemed to be the concert at Lowenberg, I turned my face thither; but, in order to avoid passing Dresden, I made a short detour by way of Berlin, where, after travelling all night, I arrived, very tired, early on the 28th of November. In compliance with my request the Bulows took me in, and at once began urging me to break my intended journey to Silesia by giving them a day in Berlin. Hans was particularly anxious for me to be present at a concert to be given that evening under his direction, a factwhich finally decided me to remain. In defiance of the cold, raw and gloomy weather, we discussed as cheerfully as we could my unfortunate position. By way of increasing my capital, it was resolved to hand over the Grand Duke of Baden's gold snuff-box to our good old friend Weitzmann for sale. The sum of two hundred and seventy marks realised by this was brought to me at the Hotel Brandenburg, where I was dining with the Bulows, and was an addition to my reserves that furnished us with many a jest. As Bulow had to complete the preparations for his concert, I drove out alone with Cosima on the promenade, as before, in a fine carriage. This time all our jocularity died away into silence. We gazed speechless into each other's eyes; an intense longing for an avowal of the truth mastered us and led to a confession – which needed no words – of the boundless unhappiness which oppressed us. The experience brought relief to us both, and the profound tranquillity which ensued enabled us to attend the concert in a cheerful, unembarrassed mood. I was actually able to fix my attention clearly on an exquisitely refined and elevated performance of Beethoven's smaller Concert Overture (in C major), and likewise on Hans's very clever arrangement of Gluck's overture to Paris and Helen. We noticed Alwine Frommann in the audience, and during the interval met her on the grand staircase of the concert-hall. After the second part had begun and the stairs were empty, we sat for some time on one of the steps chatting gaily with our old friend. After the concert we were due at my friend Weitzmann's for supper, the length and abundance of which reduced us, whose hearts yearned for profound peace, to almost frantic despair. But the day came to an end at last, and after a night spent under Bulow's roof, I continued my journey. Our farewell reminded me so vividly of that first exquisitely pathetic parting from Cosima at Zurich, that all the intervening years vanished like a dream of desolation separating two days of lifelong moment and decision. If on the first occasion our presentiment of something mysterious and inexplicable had compelled silence, it was now no less impossible to give words to that which we silently acknowledged.
I was met at one of the stations in Silesia by Conductor Seifriz, who accompanied me in one of the Prince's carriages to Lowenberg. The old Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen was already very well disposed towards me on account of his great friendship for Liszt, and had, moreover, been fully informed of my position by Heinrich Porges, who had been engaged by him for a short time. He had invited me to give a concert in his small castle to an audience composed exclusively of invited guests. I was very comfortably accommodated in apartments on the ground floor of his house, whither he frequently came on his wheeled chair from his own rooms directly opposite. Here I could not only feel at ease, but be to some extent hopeful. I at once began rehearsing the pieces I had chosen from my operas with the Prince's by no means ill- equipped private orchestra, during which my host was invariably present and seemed well satisfied. Meals were all taken very sociably in common; but on the day of the concert there was a kind of gala-dinner, at which I was astonished to meet Henriette von Bissing, the sister of Mme. Wille of Marienbad, with whom I had been intimate at Zurich. As she had an estate near Lowenberg, she had also been invited by the Prince, and now gave me proof of her faithful and enthusiastic devotion. Being both intelligent and witty, she at once became my favourite companion. After the concert had passed off with reasonable success, I had to fulfil another wish of the Prince's next day, by privately playing to him Beethoven's Symphony in C minor, when Frau von Bissing was also present. She had now been for some time a widow. She promised to come to Breslau, when I gave my concert there. Before my departure Conductor Seifriz brought me a fee of four thousand two hundred marks from the Prince, with an expression of regret that for the present it was impossible for him to be more liberal. After all my previous experiences I was truly astonished and contented, and it was with pleasure I returned the gallant Prince my heartfelt thanks with all the eloquence at my command.
Thence I travelled to Breslau, where the concert director, Damrosch, had arranged a concert for me. I had made his acquaintance on my last visit to Weimar, and had also heard of him through Liszt. Unfortunately the conditions here struck me as extraordinarily dismal and desperate. The whole affair had been planned on the meanest scale, as indeed I might have expected. A perfectly horrible concert-room, which usually served as a beer- restaurant, had been engaged. At the rear of this, and separated from it by a dreadfully vulgar curtain, was a small 'Tivoli' theatre, for which I was obliged to procure an elevated plank- floor for the orchestra, and the whole concern so disgusted me that my first impulse was to dismiss the seedy-looking musicians on the spot. My friend Damrosch, who was very much upset, had to promise me that at least he would have the horrible reek of tobacco in the place neutralised. As he could offer no guarantee as to the amount of the receipts, I was only induced in the end to go on with the enterprise by my desire not to compromise him too severely. To my amazement I found almost the entire room, at all events the front seats, filled with Jews, and in fact I owed such success as I obtained to the interest excited in this section of the population, as I learned the next day, when I attended a mid-day dinner arranged in my honour by Damrosch, at which again only Jews were present.
It was like a ray of light from a better world when, on leaving the concert-hall, I perceived Fraulein Marie von Buch, who had hurried hither with her grandmother from the Hatzfeld estate to be present at my concert, and was waiting in a boarded compartment dignified by the name of box, for me to come out after the audience had left; the young lady came up to me once more in travelling costume after Damrosch's dinner and attempted by kindly and sympathetic assurances somewhat to assuage my evident anxiety respecting the future. I thanked her once more by letter for her sympathy after my return to Vienna, to which she replied by a request for a contribution to her album. In memory of the emotions which had convulsed me on leaving Berlin, and also as an indication of my mental mood to one worthy of the confidence, I added Calderon's words, 'Things impossible to conceal, yet impossible of utterance.' By this I felt I had conveyed to a kindly disposed person, though with a happy vagueness, some idea of the secret knowledge which was my sole inspiration.
But the results of my meeting with Henriette von Bissing in Breslau were very different. She had followed me thither, and put up at the same hotel. Influenced, no doubt, by my sickly appearance, she seemed to give her sympathy for myself and my situation full play. I placed the latter before her without reserve, telling her how, ever since the upset following on my departure from Zurich in 1858, I had been unable to secure the regular income necessary for the steady pursuit of my calling; and also of my invariably vain attempts to bring my affairs into any settled and definite order. My friend did not shrink from attributing some blame to the relationship between Frau Wesendonck and my wife, and declared that she felt it her mission to conciliate them. She approved my settling down at Penzing, and only hoped that I might not spoil its beneficial effect upon me by distant enterprises. She would not listen to my plan of touring in Russia, in the coming winter, in order to earn money for my absolute necessities, and herself undertook to provide from her own very considerable fortune the not unimportant sum requisite to maintain me in independence for some time to come. But she explained to me that for a short while longer I was to try and get along through thick and thin, as she would have some difficulty – possibly a good deal – in placing the promised money at my disposal.
Greatly cheered by the impressions of this meeting I returned to Vienna on the 9th December. At Lowenberg I had been obliged to remit to Vienna the greater portion of the Prince's gift, part of it for Minna, and part for the payment of debts. Though I had but little cash I felt thoroughly sanguine; I could now greet my few friends with tolerable good-humour, and among them Peter Cornelius, who looked in on me every evening. As Heinrich Porges and Gustav Schonaich sometimes joined us, we founded an intimate little circle and met regularly. On Christmas Eve I invited them all to my house, where I had the Christmas tree lighted up, and gave each one an appropriate trifle. Some work also came my way again, for Tausig asked me to help him with a concert which he was to give in the great Redouten-Saal. In addition to a few selections from my new operas, I also conducted the Freischutz Overture, for my own particular satisfaction and entirely according to my own interpretation. Its effect, even upon the orchestra, was truly startling.
But there did not seem the slightest prospect of any official recognition of my abilities; I was, and continued to be, ignored by the great. Frau von Biasing's communications revealed by degrees the difficulties which she had encountered in the fulfilment of her promise; but as they were still hopeful in tone, I was able to spend New Year's Eve at the Standhartner's in good spirits, and to enjoy a poem specially written by Cornelius for the occasion, which was as humorous as it was solemnly appropriate.
The new year 1864 assumed for me an aspect of gravity which soon became intensified. I fell ill with a painful and increasing malady due to a chill, which often made demands on Standhartner's care. But I was yet more seriously threatened by the turn of Frau von Bissing's communications. It seemed she could only raise the promised money with the help of her family, the Slomans, who were shipowners in Hamburg, and from them she was meeting with violent opposition, mingled, as it seemed, with slanderous charges against me. These circumstances upset me so much that I wished I could renounce all help from this friend, and I began once more to turn my serious attention to Russia. Fraulein von Rhaden, to whom I again applied, felt she must vigorously dissuade me from any attempt to visit St. Petersburg, in the first place because, owing to the military disturbances in the Polish provinces, I should find the route blocked, and secondly because, roughly speaking, I should attract no notice in the Russian capital. On the other hand, a visit to Kieff, with a chance of five thousand roubles profit, was represented as undoubtedly feasible. Keeping my thoughts fixed on this, I arranged with Cornelius, who was to accompany me, a plan for crossing the Black Sea to Odessa, and going from there to Kieff, with a view to which we both resolved to procure the indispensable fur coats at once. Meanwhile, the only course open to me was to see about raising money by fresh bills at short dates, wherewith to pay all my other bills, which were also short-dated. Thus I became launched upon a business system which, leading, as it did, to obvious and inevitable ruin, could only be finally resolved by the acceptance of prompt and effectual help. In these straits I was at last compelled to request a clear declaration from my friend, not as to whether she COULD help me at once, but whether she really WISHED to help me at all, as I could no longer stave off ruin. She must have been in the highest degree wounded by some notion or other, of which I was ignorant, before bringing herself to reply in the following tone: 'You wish to know finally whether I WILL or not? Well, then, in God's name, NO!' Not long after this I received from her sister, Mme. Wille, a very surprising explanation of her conduct, which seemed at the time perfectly inexplicable, and only to be accounted for by the weakness of her not very reliable character.
Amid all these vacillations the month of February had run to an end, and while Cornelius and I were busy on our Russian plans, I received news from Kieff and Odessa that it would be unwise to attempt any artistic enterprises there during the present year. By this time it had become clear that, under the conditions thus developed, I could no longer reckon on maintaining my position in Vienna, or my establishment at Penzing. Not only did there seem no prospect of even a temporary nature of earning money, but my debts had mounted up, in the usual style of such usury, to so great a sum, and assumed so threatening an aspect, that, failing some extraordinary relief, my very person was in danger. In this perplexity I addressed myself with perfect frankness – at first only for advice – to the judge of the Imperial Provincial Court, Eduard Liszt, the youthful uncle of my old friend Franz. During my first stay in Vienna this man had shown himself a warmly devoted friend, always ready to help me. For the discharge of my bill-debts he could naturally suggest no other method than the intervention of some wealthy patron, who should settle with my creditors. For some time he believed that a certain Mme. Scholler, the wife of a rich merchant and one of my admirers, not only possessed the means, but was willing to use them on my behalf. Standhartner also, with whom I made no pretence of secrecy, thought he could do something for me in this way. Thus my position was for some weeks again most uncertain, until at last it became clear that all my friends could procure me was the means for flight to Switzerland – which was now deemed absolutely necessary – where, having saved my skin so far, I should have to raise money for my bills. To the lawyer, Eduard Liszt, this way of escape seemed specially desirable, because he would then be in a position to punish the outrageous usury practised against me.
During the anxious time of the last few months, through which, nevertheless, there had run an undercurrent of indefinite hope, I had kept up a lively intercourse with my few friends. Cornelius turned up regularly every evening, and was joined by O. Bach, little Count Laurencin, and, on one occasion, by Rudolph Liechtenstein. With Cornelius alone I began reading the Iliad. When we reached the catalogue of ships I wished to skip it; but Peter protested, and offered to read it out himself; but whether we ever came to the end of it I forget. My reading by myself consisted of Chateaubriand's La Vie de Rance, which Tausig had brought me. Meanwhile, he himself vanished without leaving any trace, until after some time he reappeared engaged to a Hungarian pianist. During the whole of this time I was very ill and suffered exceedingly from a violent catarrh. The thought of death took such hold on me that I at last lost all desire to shake it off, and even set about bequeathing my books and manuscripts, of which a portion fell to the lot of Cornelius.
I had taken the precaution some time before of commending into Standhartner's keeping my remaining – and now, alas! exceedingly doubtful – assets which were in the house at Penzing. As my friends were most positive in recommending preparation for immediate flight, I had written to Otto Wesendonck requesting to be taken into his house, as Switzerland was to be my destination. He refused point-blank, and I could not resist sending him a reply to prove the injustice of this. The next thing was to make my absence from home a short one and to count upon a speedy return. Standhartner made me go and dine at his house in his great anxiety to cover up my departure, and my servant Franz Mrazek brought my trunk there too. My farewell to Standhartner, his wife Anna, and the good dog Pohl was very depressing. Standhartner's stepson Karl Schonaich and Cornelius accompanied me to the station, the one in grief and tears, the other inclining to a frivolous mood. It was on the afternoon of 23rd March that I left for Munich, my first stopping-place, where I hoped to rest for two days after the terrible disturbances I had gone through, without attracting any notice. I stayed at the 'Bayerischer Hof' and took a few walks through the city at my leisure. It was Good Friday and the weather was bitterly cold. The mood proper to the day seemed to possess the whole population, whom I saw going from one church to another dressed in deepest mourning. King Maximilian II. – of whom the Bavarians had become so fond – had died a few days before, leaving as heir to the throne a son aged eighteen and a half, whose extreme youth was no bar to his accession. I saw a portrait of the young king, Ludwig II. in a shop window, and experienced the peculiar emotion which is aroused by the sight of youth and beauty placed in a position presumed to be unusually trying. After writing a humorous epitaph for myself, I crossed Lake Constance unmolested and reached Zurich – once more a refugee in need of an asylum – where I at once betook myself to Dr. Wille's estate at Mariafeld.
I had already written to my friend's wife to ask her to put me up for a few days, which she very kindly agreed to do. I had got to know her very well during my last stay at Zurich, while my friendship with him had somewhat cooled. I wanted to have time to find what seemed suitable quarters in one of the places bordering on Lake Zurich. Dr. Wille himself was not there, as he had gone to Constantinople on a pleasure trip. I had no difficulty in making my friend understand my situation, which I found her most willing to relieve. First of all she cleared one or two living rooms in Frau von Bissing's old house next door, from which, however, the fairly comfortable furniture had been removed. I wanted to cater for myself, but had to yield to her request to take over that responsibility. Only furniture was lacking, and for this she ventured to apply to Frau Wesendonck, who immediately sent all she could spare of her household goods, as well as a cottage piano. The good woman was also anxious that I should visit my old friends at Zurich to avoid any appearance of unpleasantness, but I was prevented from doing so by serious indisposition, which was increased by the badly heated rooms, and finally Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck came over to us at Mariafeld. The very uncertain and strained attitude apparent in these two was not entirely incomprehensible to me, but I behaved as if I did not notice it. My cold, which rendered me incapable of looking about for a house in the neighbouring districts, was continually aggravated by the bad weather and my own deep depression. I spent these dreadful days sitting huddled in my Karlsruhe fur coat from morning till night, and addled my brain with reading one after another of the volumes which Mme. Wille sent me in my seclusion. I read Jean Paul's Siebenkas, Frederick the Great's Tagebuch, Tauser, George Sand's novels and Walter Scott's, and finally Felicitas, a work from my sympathetic hostess's own pen. Nothing reached me from the outside world except a passionate lament from Mathilde Maier, and a most pleasant surprise in the shape of royalties (seventy-five francs), which Truinet sent from Paris. This led to a conversation with Mme. Wille, half in anger and half with condemned-cell cynicism, as to what I could do to obtain complete release from my wretched situation. Among other things we touched upon the necessity of obtaining a divorce from my wife in order to contract a rich marriage. As everything seemed right and nothing inexpedient in my eyes, I actually wrote and asked my sister Luise Brockhaus whether she could not, by talking sensibly to Minna, persuade her to depend on her settled yearly allowance without making any claims on my person in future. In reply I received a deeply pathetic letter advising me first to think of establishing my reputation and to create for myself an unassailable position by some new work. In this way I might very probably reap some benefit without taking any foolish step; and in any case I should do well to apply for the post of conductor which was now vacant in Darmstadt.
I had very bad news from Vienna. Standhartncr, to make sure of the furniture I had left in the house, sold it to a Viennese agent, with the option of re-purchase. I wrote back in great indignation, particularly as I realised the prejudicial effect of this on my landlord, to whom I had to pay rent within the next few days. Through Mme. Wille I succeeded in getting placed at my disposal the money required for the rent, which I forwarded at once to Baron Raokowitz. Unfortunately, however, I found that Standhartner had already cleared up everything with Eduard Liszt, paying the rent with the proceeds from the furniture, and thereby cutting off my return to Vienna, which they both considered would be positive ruin to me. But when I heard at the same time from Cornelius that Tausig, who was then in Hungary and who had added his signature to one of the bills of exchange, felt himself prevented by me from returning to Vienna as he desired, I was so sensibly wounded that I decided to go back on the spot, however great the danger might be. I announced my intention to my friends there immediately, but decided first to try and provide myself with enough money to be in a position to suggest a composition with my creditors. To this end I had written most urgently to Schott at Mayence, and did not refrain from reproaching him bitterly for his behaviour to me. I now decided to leave Mariafeld for Stuttgart to await the result of these efforts, and to prosecute them from a nearer vantage-ground. But I was also, as will be seen, moved to carry out this change by other motives.
Dr. Wille had returned, and I could see at once that my stay at Mariafeld alarmed him. He probably feared I might rely on his help also. In some confusion, occasioned by the attitude I had adopted in consequence, he made this confession to me in a moment of agitation. He was, he said, overpowered by a sentiment with regard to me which amounted to this – that a man wanted, after all, to be something more than a cipher in his own house, where, if anywhere, it is not pleasant to serve as a mere foil to some one else. This sentiment was merely excusable, he thought, in a man who, though he might reasonably suppose himself of some account among his fellows, had been brought into close contact with another to whom he felt himself in the strangest manner subordinate. Mme. Wille, foreseeing her husband's frame of mind, had come to an agreement, with the Wesendonck family by which they were to provide me with one hundred francs a month during my stay at Mariafeld. When this came to my knowledge, I could do nothing but announce to Frau Wesendonck my immediate departure from Switzerland, and request her in the kindest possible way to consider herself relieved of all anxiety about me, as I had arranged my affairs quite in accordance with my wishes. I heard later that she had returned this letter – which, possibly, she considered compromising – to Mme. Wille unopened.
My next move was to go to Stuttgart on 30th April. I knew that Karl Eckert had been settled there some time as conductor at the Royal Court Theatre, and I had reason to believe the good-natured fellow to be unprejudiced and well disposed towards me, judging by his admirable behaviour when he had been director of the opera in Vienna, and also by the enthusiasm he exhibited in coming to my concert at Karlsruhe the year before. I expected nothing further of him than a little assistance in looking for a quiet lodging for the coming summer at Cannstadt or some such place near Stuttgart. I wanted, above all, to finish the first act of the Meistersinger with all possible despatch, so as to send Schott part of the manuscript at last. I had told him that I was going to send it to him almost immediately when I attacked him about the advances which had so long been withheld from me. I then intended to collect the means wherewith to meet my obligations in Vienna, while living in complete retirement and, as I hoped, in concealment. Eckert welcomed me most kindly. His wife – one of the greatest beauties in Vienna – had, in her fantastic desire to marry an artist, given up a very profitable post, but was still rich enough for the conductor to live comfortably and show hospitality, and the impression I now received was very pleasant. Eckert felt himself absolutely bound to take me to see Baron von Gall, the manager of the court theatre, who alluded sensibly and kindly to my difficult position in Germany, where everything was likely to remain closed to me as long as the Saxon ambassadors and agents – who were scattered everywhere – were allowed to attempt to injure me by all kinds of suspicions. After getting to know me better, he considered himself authorised to act on my behalf through the medium of the court of Wurtemberg. As I was talking over these matters rather late on the evening of 3rd May at the Eckerts', a gentleman's card with the inscription 'Secretary to the King of Bavaria' was handed to me. I was disagreeably surprised that my presence in Stuttgart should be known to passing travellers, and sent word that I was not there, after which I retired to my hotel, only to be again informed by the landlord that a gentleman from Munich desired to see me on urgent business. I made an appointment for the morning at ten o'clock, and passed a disturbed night in my constant anticipation of misfortune. I received Herr Pfistermeister, the private secretary of H.M. the King of Bavaria, in my room. He first expressed great pleasure at having found me at last, thanks to receiving some happy directions, after vainly seeking me in Vienna and even at Mariafeld on Lake Zurich. He was charged with a note for me from the young King of Bavaria, together with a portrait and a ring as a present. In words which, though few, penetrated to the very core of my being, the youthful monarch confessed his great partiality for my work, and announced his firm resolve to keep me near him as his friend, so that I might escape any malignant stroke of fate. Herr Pfistermeister informed me at the same time that he was instructed to conduct me to Munich at once to see the King, and begged my permission to inform his master by telegram that I would come on the following day. I was invited to dine with the Eckerts, but Herr Pfistermeister was obliged to decline to accompany me. My friends, who had been joined by young Weisheimer from Osthofen, were very naturally amazed and delighted at the news I brought them. While we were at table Eckert was informed by telegram of Meyerbeer's death in Paris, and Weisheimer burst out in boorish laughter to think that the master of opera, who had done me so much harm, had by a strange coincidence not lived to see this day. Herr von Gall also made his appearance, and had to admit in friendly surprise that I certainly did not need his good services any more. He had already given the order for Lohengrin, and now paid me the stipulated sum on the spot. At five o'clock that afternoon I met Herr Pfistermeister at the station to travel with him to Munich, where my visit to the King was announced for the following morning.
On the same day I had received the most urgent warnings against returning to Vienna. But my life was to have no more of these alarms; the dangerous road along which fate beckoned me to such great ends was not destined to be clear of troubles and anxieties of a kind unknown to me heretofore, but I was never again to feel the weight of the everyday hardships of existence under the protection of my exalted friend.
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