Beethoven’s Letters 1790-1826, Volume 1

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, John Williams and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.














Since undertaking the translation of Dr. Ludwig Nohl’s valuable edition of “Beethoven’s Letters,” an additional collection has been published by Dr. Ludwig Ritter von Köchel, consisting of many interesting letters addressed by Beethoven to his illustrious pupil, H.R.H. the Archduke Rudolph, Cardinal-Archbishop of Olmütz. These I have inserted in chronological order, and marked with the letter K., in order to distinguish them from the correspondence edited by Dr. Nohl. I have only omitted a few brief notes, consisting merely of apologies for non-attendance on the Archduke.

The artistic value of these newly discovered treasures will no doubt be as highly appreciated in this country as in the great maestro’s Father-land.

I must also express my gratitude to Dr. Th.G. v. Karajan, for permitting an engraving to be made expressly for this work, from an original Beethoven portrait in his possession, now for the first time given to the public. The grand and thoughtful countenance forms a fitting introduction to letters so truly depicting the brilliant, fitful genius of the sublime master, as well as the touching sadness and gloom pervading his life, which his devotion to Art alone brightened, through many bitter trials and harassing cares.

The love of Beethoven’s music is now become so universal in England, that I make no doubt his Letters will receive a hearty welcome from all those whose spirits have been elevated and soothed by the genius of this illustrious man.


AINDERBY HALL, March 28, 1866.


In accompanying the present edition of the Letters of Ludwig van Beethoven with a few introductory remarks, I at once acknowledge that the compilation of these letters has cost me no slight sacrifices. I must also, however, mention that an unexpected Christmas donation, generously bestowed on me with a view to further my efforts to promote the science of music, enabled me to undertake one of the journeys necessary for my purpose, and also to complete the revision of the Letters and of the press, in the milder air and repose of a country residence, long since recommended to me for the restoration of my health, undermined by overwork.

That, in spite of every effort, I have not succeeded in seeing the original of each letter, or even discovering the place where it exists, may well be excused, taking into consideration the slender capabilities of an individual, and the astonishing manner in which Beethoven’s Letters are dispersed all over the world. At the same time, I must state that not only have the hitherto inaccessible treasures of Anton Schindler’s “Beethoven’s Nachlass” been placed at my disposal, but also other letters from private sources, owing to various happy chances, and the kindness and complaisance of collectors of autographs. I know better, however, than most people–being in a position to do so–that in the present work there can be no pretension to any thing approaching to a complete collection of Beethoven’s Letters. The master, so fond of writing, though he often rather amusingly accuses himself of being a lazy correspondent, may very probably have sent forth at least double the amount of the letters here given, and there is no doubt whatever that a much larger number are still extant in the originals. The only thing that can be done at this moment, however, is to make the attempt to bring to light, at all events, the letters that could be discovered in Germany. The mass of those which I gradually accumulated, and now offer to the public (with the exception of some insignificant notes), appeared to me sufficiently numerous and important to interest the world, and also to form a substantial nucleus for any letters that may hereafter be discovered. On the other hand, as many of Beethoven’s Letters slumber in foreign lands, especially in the unapproachable cabinets of curiosities belonging to various close-fisted English collectors, an entire edition of the correspondence could only be effected by a most disproportionate outlay of time and expense.

When revising the text of the Letters, it seemed to me needless perpetually to impair the pleasure of the reader by retaining the mistakes in orthography; but enough of the style of writing of that day is adhered to, to prevent its peculiar charm being entirely destroyed. Distorted and incorrect as Beethoven’s mode of expression sometimes is, I have not presumed to alter his grammar, or rather syntax, in the smallest degree: who would presume to do so with an individuality which, even amid startling clumsiness of style, displays those inherent intellectual powers that often did violence to language as well as to his fellow-men? Cyclopean masses of rock are here hurled with Cyclopean force; but hard and massive as they are, the man is not to be envied whose heart is not touched by these glowing fragments, flung apparently at random right and left, like meteors, by a mighty intellectual being, however perverse the treatment language may have received from him.

The great peculiarity, however, in this strange mode of expression is, that even such incongruous language faithfully reflects the mind of the man whose nature was of prophetic depth and heroic force; and who that knows anything of the creative genius of a Beethoven can deny him these attributes?

The antique dignity pervading the whole man, the ethical contemplation of life forming the basis of his nature, prevented even a momentary wish on my part to efface a single word of the oft-recurring expressions so painfully harsh, bordering on the unaesthetic, and even on the repulsive, provoked by his wrath against the meanness of men. In the last part of these genuine documents, we learn with a feeling of sadness, and with almost a tragic sensation, how low was the standard of moral worth, or rather how great was the positive unworthiness, of the intimate society surrounding the master, and with what difficulty he could maintain the purity of the nobler part of his being in such an atmosphere. The manner, indeed, in which he strives to do so, fluctuating between explosions of harshness and almost weak yieldingness, while striving to master the base thoughts and conduct of these men, though never entirely succeeding in doing so, is often more a diverting than an offensive spectacle. In my opinion, nevertheless, even this less pleasing aspect of the Letters ought not to be in the slightest degree softened (which it has hitherto been, owing to false views of propriety and morality), for it is no moral deformity here displayed. Indeed, even when the irritable master has recourse to expressions repugnant to our sense of conventionality, and which may well be called harsh and rough, still the wrath that seizes on our hero is a just and righteous wrath, and we disregard it, just as in Nature, whose grandeur constantly elevates us above the inevitable stains of an earthly soil. The coarseness and ill-breeding, which would claim toleration because this great man now and then showed such feelings, must beware of doing so, being certain to make shipwreck when coming in contact with the massive rock of true morality on which, with all his faults and deficiencies, Beethoven’s being was surely grounded. Often, indeed, when absorbed in the unsophisticated and genuine utterances of this great man, it seems as if these peculiarities and strange asperities were the results of some mysterious law of Nature, so that we are inclined to adopt the paradox by which a wit once described the singular groundwork of our nature,–“The faults of man are the night in which he rests from his virtues.”

Indeed, I think that the lofty morality of such natures is not fully evident until we are obliged to confess with regret, that even the great ones of the earth must pay their tribute to humanity, and really do pay it (which is the distinction between them and base and petty characters), without being ever entirely hurled from their pedestal of dignity and virtue. The soul of that man cannot fail to be elevated, who can seize the real spirit of the scattered pages that a happy chance has preserved for us. If not fettered by petty feelings, he will quickly surmount the casual obstacles and stumbling-blocks which the first perusal of these Letters may seem to present, and quickly feel himself transported at a single stride into a stream, where a strange roaring and rushing is heard, but above which loftier tones resound with magic and exciting power. For a peculiar life breathes in these lines; an under-current runs through their apparently unconnected import, uniting them as with an electric chain, and with firmer links than any mere coherence of subjects could have effected. I experienced this myself, to the most remarkable degree, when I first made the attempt to arrange, in accordance with their period and substance, the hundreds of individual pages bearing neither date nor address, and I was soon convinced that a connecting text (such as Mozart’s Letters have, and ought to have) would be here entirely superfluous, as even the best biographical commentary would be very dry work, interrupting the electric current of the whole, and thus destroying its peculiar effect.

And now, what is this spirit which, for an intelligent mind, binds together these scattered fragments into a whole, and what is its actual power? I cannot tell; but I feel to this day just as I felt to the innermost depths of my heart in the days of my youth when I first heard a symphony of Beethoven’s,–that a spirit breathes from it bearing us aloft with giant power out of the oppressive atmosphere of sense, stirring to its inmost recesses the heart of man, bringing him to the full consciousness of his loftier being, and of the undying within him. And even more distinctly than when a new world was thus disclosed to his youthful feelings is the man fully conscious that not only was this a new world to him, but a new world of feeling in itself, revealing to the spirit phases of its own, which, till Beethoven appeared, had never before been fathomed. Call it by what name you will, when one of the great works of the sublime master is heard, whether indicative of proud self-consciousness, freedom, spring, love, storm, or battle, it grasps the soul with singular force, and enlarges the laboring breast. Whether a man understands music or not, every one who has a heart beating within his breast will feel with enchantment that here is concentrated the utmost promised to us by the most imaginative of our poets, in bright visions of happiness and freedom. Even the only great hero of action, who in those memorable days is worthy to stand beside the great master of harmony, having diffused among mankind new and priceless earthly treasures, sinks in the scale when we compare these with the celestial treasures of a purified and deeper feeling, and a more free, enlarged, and sublime view of the world, struggling gradually and distinctly upwards out of the mere frivolity of an art devoid of words to express itself, and impressing its stamp on the spirit of the age. They convey, too, the knowledge of this brightest victory of genuine German intellect to those for whom the sweet Muse of Music is as a book with seven seals, and reveal, likewise, a more profound sense of Beethoven’s being to many who already, through the sweet tones they have imbibed, enjoy some dawning conviction of the master’s grandeur, and who now more and more eagerly lend a listening ear to the intellectual clearly worded strains so skilfully interwoven, thus soon to arrive at the full and blissful comprehension of those grand outpourings of the spirit, and finally to add another bright delight to the enjoyment of those who already know and love Beethoven. All these may be regarded as the objects I had in view when I undertook to edit his Letters, which have also bestowed on myself the best recompense of my labors, in the humble conviction that by this means I may have vividly reawakened in the remembrance of many the mighty mission which our age is called on to perform for the development of our race, even in the realm of harmony,–more especially in our Father-land.






  1. To the Elector of Cologne, Frederick Maximilian.
  2. To Dr. Schade, Augsburg
  3. To the Elector Maximilian Francis
  4. To Eleonore von Breuning, Bonn
  5. To the Same
  6. To Herr Schenk
  7. To Dr. Wegeler, Vienna
  8. To the Same
  9. Lines written in the Album of L. von Breuning
  10. To Baron Zmeskall von Domanowecz
  11. Ukase to Zmeskall, Schuppanzigh, and Lichnowsky
  12. To Pastor Amenda, Courland
  13. To the Same
  14. To Wegeler
  15. To Countess Giulietta Guicciardi
  16. To Matthisson
  17. To Frau Frank, Vienna
  18. To Wegeler
  19. To Kapellmeister Hofmeister, Leipzig
  20. To the Same
  21. To the Same
  22. To the Same
  23. Dedication to Dr. Schmidt
  24. To Ferdinand Ries
  25. To Herr Hofmeister, Leipzig
  26. To Carl and Johann Beethoven
  27. Notice
  28. To Ferdinand Ries
  29. To Herr Hofmeister, Leipzig
  30. Caution
  31. To Ries
  32. To the Same
  33. To the Same
  34. To the Same
  35. To the Composer Leidesdorf, Vienna
  36. To Ries
  37. To the Same
  38. To the Same
  39. To Messrs. Artaria & Co.
  40. To Princess Liechtenstein
  41. To Herr Meyer
  42. Testimonial for C. Czerny
  43. To Herr Röckel
  44. To Herr Collin, Court Secretary and Poet
  45. To Herr Gleichenstein
  46. To the Directors of the Court Theatre
  47. To Count Franz von Oppersdorf
  48. Notice of a Memorial to the Archduke Rudolph, Prince Kinsky, and Prince Lobkowitz
  49. Memorial to the Same
  50. To Zmeskall
  51. To Ferdinand Ries
  52. To Zmeskall
  53. To the Same
  54. To the Same
  55. To the Same
  56. To the Same
  57. To the Same
  58. To the Same
  59. To Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall
  60. To the Same
  61. To Baroness von Drossdick
  62. To Mdlle. de Gerardi
  63. To Zmeskall
  64. To Wegeler
  65. To Zmeskall
  66. To Bettina Brentano
  67. To the Same
  68. To Zmeskall
  69. To the Same
  70. To the Archduke Rudolph
  71. To a Dear Friend
  72. To the Dramatic Poet Treitschke
  73. To Zmeskall
  74. To the Same
  75. To the Same
  76. To the Same
  77. To the Same
  78. To the Same
  79. To the Same
  80. To Kammerprocurator Varenna, Gratz
  81. To Zmeskall
  82. To the Same
  83. To Varenna, Gratz
  84. To Zmeskall
  85. To Varenna
  86. To Archduke Rudolph
  87. To the Same
  88. To Varenna, Gratz
  89. To Joseph Freiherr von Schweiger
  90. To Varenna, Gratz
  91. Lines written in the Album of Mdme. Auguste Sebald
  92. To Archduke Rudolph
  93. To Bettina von Arnim
  94. To Princess Kinsky
  95. To Archduke Rudolph
  96. To the Same
  97. To the Same
  98. To Princess Kinsky
  99. To the Same
  100. To Zmeskall
  101. To Herr Joseph Varenna, Gratz
  102. To the Same
  103. To Zmeskall
  104. To the Same
  105. To the Same
  106. To the Same
  107. To the Same
  108. To the Same
  109. To the Same
  110. To Archduke Rudolph
  111. To the Same
  112. To the Same
  113. To Freiherr Josef von Schweiger
  114. To Herr von Baumeister
  115. To Zmeskall
  116. Letter of Thanks
  117. To the Archduke Rudolph
  118. To the Same
  119. To the Same
  120. To Treitschke
  121. To the Same
  122. To the Same
  123. To Count Lichnowsky.
  124. To the Same
  125. To the Archduke Rudolph
  126. To the Same
  127. Deposition
  128. To Dr. Kauka, Prague.
  129. Address and Appeal to London Artists
  130. To Dr. Kauka
  131. To Count Moritz Lichnowsky
  132. To the Archduke Rudolph
  133. To the Same
  134. To the Same
  135. To the Same
  136. To the Same
  137. To the Same
  138. To the Same
  139. To the Same
  140. To Dr. Kauka
  141. To the Same
  142. To the Same
  143. To the Members of the Landrecht
  144. To Baron von Pasqualati
  145. To Dr. Kauka
  146. To the Archduke Rudolph



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