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Beethoven on the true artist

June 1, 2008

The comment in square brackets is by Dr AC Kalischer.

To EMILIE M. at H.
Teplitz, 17th July 1812

My Dear Good Emilie, My Dear Friend!

I am sending a late answer to your letter; a mass of business, constant illness must be my excuse. That I am here for the restoration of my health proves the truth of my excuse. Do not snatch the laurel wreaths from Handel, Haydn, Mozart; they are entitled to them; as yet I am not.

Your pocket book shall be preserved among other tokens of the esteem of many people, which I do not deserve.

Continue, do not only practise art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the God-head. If, my dear Emilie, you at any time wish to know something, write without hesitation to me. The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun. I would, perhaps, rather come to you and your people, than to many rich folk who display inward poverty. If one day I should come to H., I will come to you, to your house; I know no other excellences in man than those which causes him to rank among better men; where I find this, there is my home.

If you wish, dear Emilie, to write to me, only address straight here where I shall still be for the next four weeks, or to Vienna; it is all one. Look upon me as your friend, and as the friend of your family.

[Thayer relates that Emilie M., at H., was a little girl of eight or ten years old, who raved about Beethoven. This dear child wrote under the guidance of her governess to the composer, and added to the letter a piece of handiwork – a pocket book, which she begged the master to accept. And thereupon followed the letter, a veritable cabinet-piece of artistic wisdom, in childlike language.]

Beethoven’s Letters with explanatory notes by Dr. A.C. Kalischer, J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., London & Toronto, 1926, pp.133-134.

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