Brahms to Clara Schumann 2 Dec. 1854
Brahms to Clara
Hamburg, Dec. 2
I was deeply distressed by your last letter. What can I say to you? How can I comfort you,-I who also require comforting? How dearly you are having to pay for your husband’s precious letter. What a terrible enclosure. I could feel no real joy at my good fortune; I could think only of you and your sorrow – not that the doctor’s letter has deprived us of all hope, because I cannot believe that the spring will not make you the happiest of women. But how terribly hard it is that our hopes for the immediate future should be snatched from us! My poor friend, how you must be suffering. But your fears also are only for the winter, are they not? You too hope that the worst will then be over? Your husband is not suffering as much as you are. What a comfort this must be for a woman like you. I cannot stir from my conviction that your dear one’s illness is cured but that his mind, unlike his body, is not yet fully restored. A letter from you makes him forget his loneliness for whole days and what a wonderfully soothing effect music must have upon him.
You remember how the doctors commented on your husband s first letter which you thought “unexpectedly sensible”. You don’t know what trouble I had to prevent the doctors from announcing to you, when in Ostend, that your husband s correspondence would be reduced. Remember, too, how much of his behaviour strikes the doctors as unnatural. When I saw him he put his hand to his mouth as usual, and the doctor said portentously to me, “Look, he often does that”! I replied “He has always done that”. “Yes”, he said, very gravely, “many people have told me that already.” There is much even in your husband’s letter which the doctors will not be able to explain. But oh, how childish I must appear to you with my inadequate attempts at comfort. All we can do is to have hope and faith. It is no good thinking about it, for that neither brings hope nor fosters or strengthens it. But you may derive comfort from the dear letters. They are so beautiful, so full of love. Was not the last to you the most beautiful of all? But I ought not really to say that. For see how he thinks of me – with what fond affection!
But forgive my letters and believe me when I say that I am graver at heart when I think of you than you can possibly gather from my letters. When I write to you I feel as though I were speaking to you. You bear your grief so proudly that one easily forgets all the pain of it and becomes cheerful; I am still young and often boyish, you must forgive me. You must surely believe and know that I really feel things deeply, and that although my youthful spirits or levity make me appear different, they can never allow me to forget. I have sent the letter direct to Joachim. How great your friendship for us must be to have allowed you to make this great sacrifice on our account. One cannot speak one s gratitude, one can only prove it. With deepest love and reverence, Your Johannes.
Litzmann, Berthold, Ed., Letters of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms 1853-1896, Vol. I, Edward Arnold & Co. 1927