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Brahms to Clara Schumann 14 Aug. 1855

June 13, 2010

Brahms to Clara
Tuesday. Aug 14

My Dear Friend!

Now what am I to do with the Plutarch?  I cannot prevail upon myself to send it back, as I had heroically resolved to do.  Hitherto I have only been able to read isolated Lives from Plutarch, I have never yet been able to get him complete.  Even the edition of which I spoke to you belongs to a “cheap classical library”, and it would certainly not be as complete as this one, nor would it in any case have so many notes and commentaries.

How delighted I shall be if you bring it to me.  Plutarch’s Lives exercise a remarkable power over me, and in that case I shall have him complete and by the same translator.  I was not at all surprised by what you wrote to me about Coriolanus.  On reading the Life for the first time one often wishes that he might have been different, softer, more human.  If you read it more often this impression goes and you are able to endure the excessive roughness and hardness of this colossal hero, if he shows his hardness at the right moment, as for instance at the time of the elections.  But the drama does  not end with his treachery.  I always forget it when I come to the scene with his mother and his death.  That wipes out every other impression.  Incidentally I ought to tell you that  Shakespeare made a close study of Plutarch.  In Coriolanus, Julius Caesar etc. whole speeches are taken bodily out of  Pl., and in Coriolanus particularly the action is based entirely upon him (the sequence of scenes).  Beethoven also loved to read Plutarch, and when listening to his music one often imagines that one can see the ouitline of one of Plutarch s heroes……. 

I shall be in a position to pay all my debts soon and in addition to give one friend the complete works of Schiller and another the complete works of Goethe.  And then there is also the money I shall get from the Ballads, about which I shall write shortly, and from Whistling…. Bertha is a bit too much of a good thing with her love-sickness……..

And now let me give you just one tender little kiss for my sister.  But for yourself a right hearty one such as you are used to receiving from Your Johannes.

Litzmann, Berthold, Ed., Letters of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms 1853-1896, Vol. I, Edward Arnold & Co. 1927

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