Friday, September 03, 2010

The Immortal Beloved letters

So what exactly did Beethoven write to his "immortal beloved"?

This, by way of Google books reproduction of "Beethoven's letters (1790 - 1826) from the collection of Dr. Ludwig Nohl."

Morning, July 6, 1800.

My angel! my all! my second self!

Only a few words to-day, written with a pencil (your own). My residence cannot be settled till tomorrow. What a tiresome loss of time! Why this deep grief when necessity compels ?—can our love exist without sacrifices,and by refraining from desiring all things? Can you alter the fact that you are not wholly mine, nor I wholly yours? Ah! contemplate the beauties of nature, and reconcile your spirit to the inevitable. Love demands all, and has a right to do so, and thus it is I feel towards you, and you towards me; but you do not sufficiently remember that I must live both for you and for myself. Were we wholly united, you would feel this sorrow as little as I should. My journey was terrible. I did not arrive here till four o'clock yesterday morning, as no horses were to be had. The drivers chose another route; but what a dreadful one it was! At the last stage I was warned not to travel through the night, and to beware of a certain wood, but this only incited me to go forward, and I was wrong. The carriage broke down, owing to the execrable roads, mere deep rough country lanes, and had it not been for the postilions I must have been left by the wayside. Esterhazy, traveling the usual road, had the same fate with eight horses, whereas I had only four. Still I felt a certain degree of pleasure, which I invariably do when I have happily surmounted any difficulty. But I must now pass from the outer to the inner man. We shall, I trust, soon meet again; to-day I cannot impart to you all the reflections I have made, during the last few days, on my life; were our hearts closely united for ever, none of these would occur to me. My heart is overflowing with all I have to say to you. Ah ! there are moments when I find that speech is actually nothing. Take courage ! Continue to be ever my true and only love, my all! as I am yours. The gods must ordain what is further to be and shall be!

Your faithful


Dude did not stint on the exclamation points.

Monday evening, July 6.

You grieve! dearest of all beings! I have just heard that the letters must be sent off very early. Mondays and Thursdays are the only days when the post goes to K. from here. You grieve! Ah! where I am, there you are ever with me: how earnestly shall I strive to pass my life with you, and what a life will it be!!! Whereas now!! without you!! and persecuted by the kindness of others, which I neither deserve nor try to deserve! The servility of man towards his fellow-man pains me, and when I regard myself as a component part of the universe, what am I, what is he who is called the greatest? — and yet herein are displayed the godlike feelings of humanity! — I weep in thinking that you will receive no intelligence from me till probably Saturday. However dearly you may love me, I love you more fondly still. Never conceal your feelings from me. Good night! As a patient at these baths, I must now go to rest [a few words are here effaced by Beethoven himself]. Oh, heavens ! so near, and yet so far ! Is not our love a truly celestial mansion, but firm as the vault of heaven itself?

He would have really loved email...

July 7. Good morning!

Even before I rise, my thoughts throng to you, my immortal beloved! — sometimes full of joy, and yet again sad, waiting to see whether Fate will hear us. I must live either wholly with you, or not at all. Indeed I have resolved to wander far from you till the moment arrives when I can fly into your arms, and feel that they are my home, and send forth my soul in unison with yours into the realm of spirits. Alas! it must be so! You will take courage, for you know my fidelity. Never can another possess my heart — never, never! Oh, heavens! Why must I fly from her I so fondly love? and yet my existence in W. was as miserable as here. Your love made me the most happy and yet the most unhappy of men. At my age, life requires a uniform equality; can this be found in our mutual relations? My angel! I have this moment heard that the post goes every day, so I must conclude, that you may get this letter the sooner. Be calm! for we can only attain our object of living together by the calm contemplation of our existence. Continue to love me. Yesterday, to-day, what longings for you, what tears for you! for you ! for you! my life! my all! Farewell! Oh! love me for ever, and never doubt the faithful heart of your lover,


Ever thine.

Ever mine.

Ever each other's.

The editor of Dr. Nohl's book seems to think that the Immortal Beloved is Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, on the grounds that Beethoven dedicated the "Moonlight Sonata" (Piano Sonata No. 14 in C#minor) to her, but she's only one of several possible candidates.

Fun fact via Wikipedia: "The work ("Moonlight Sonata") was very popular in Beethoven's day, to the point of exasperating the composer himself, who remarked to Carl Czerny, "Surely I've written better things."

I would suggest it was popular because like "Fur Elise" it is relatively easy to play effectively even for so-so pianists such as myself.

The Moonlight Sonata