Beethoven’s Letters 1790-1826, Volume 1 & 2 of 2.
by Ludwig van Beethoven

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Beethoven’s Letters 1790-1826, Volume 1 & 2 of 2.
by Ludwig van Beethoven


TO THE ELECTOR OF COLOGNE, FREDERICK MAXIMILIAN.[1]ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE,–Music from my fourth year has ever been my favorite pursuit. Thus early introduced to the
sweet Muse, who attuned my soul to pure harmony, I loved her, and sometimes ventured to
think that I was beloved by her in return. I have now attained my eleventh year, and my Muse
often whispered to me in hours of inspiration,–Try to write down the harmonies in your soul.
Only eleven years old! thought I; does the character of an author befit me? and what would
more mature artists say? I felt some trepidation; but my Muse willed it–so I obeyed, and
May I now, therefore, Illustrious Prince, presume to lay the first-fruits of my juvenile labors at
the foot of your throne? and may I hope that you will condescend to cast an encouraging and
kindly glance on them? You will; for Art and Science have ever found in you a judicious
protector and a generous patron, and rising talent has always prospered under your fostering
and fatherly care. Encouraged by this cheering conviction, I venture to approach you with
these my youthful efforts. Accept them as the pure offering of childlike reverence, and
graciously vouchsafe to regard with indulgence them and their youthful composer,
[Footnote 1: The dedication affixed to this work, “Three Sonatas for the Piano, dedicated to
my illustrious master, Maximilian Friedrich, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne, by Ludwig
van Beethoven in his eleventh year,” is probably not written by the boy himself, but is given
here as an amusing contrast to his subsequent ideas with regard to the homage due to rank.]2.
Bonn, 1787. Autumn.
I can easily imagine what you must think of me, and I cannot deny that you have too good
grounds for an unfavorable opinion. I shall not, however, attempt to justify myself, until I
have explained to you the reasons why my apologies should be accepted. I must tell you that
from the time I left Augsburg[1] my cheerfulness, as well as my health, began to decline; the
nearer I came to my native city, the more frequent were the letters from my father, urging me
to travel with all possible speed, as my mother’s health was in a most precarious condition. I
therefore hurried forwards as fast as I could, although myself far from well. My longing once
more to see my dying mother overcame every obstacle, and assisted me in surmounting the
greatest difficulties. I found my mother indeed still alive, but in the most deplorable state; her
disease was consumption, and about seven weeks ago, after much pain and suffering, she died
[July 17]. She was indeed a kind, loving mother to me, and my best friend. Ah! who was
happier than I, when I could still utter the sweet name of mother, and it was heard? But to
whom can I now say it? Only to the silent form resembling her, evoked by the power of
imagination. I have passed very few pleasant hours since my arrival here, having during the
whole time been suffering from asthma, which may, I fear, eventually turn to consumption; to
this is added melancholy,–almost as great an evil as my malady itself. Imagine yourself in my
place, and then I shall hope to receive your forgiveness for my long silence. You showed me
extreme kindness and friendship by lending me three Carolins in Augsburg, but I must entreat
your indulgence for a time. My journey cost me a great deal, and I have not the smallest hopesof earning anything here. Fate is not propitious to me in Bonn. Pardon my intruding on you so
long with my affairs, but all that I have said was necessary for my own justification.
I do entreat you not to deprive me of your valuable friendship; nothing do I wish so much as
in any degree to become worthy of your regard. I am, with all esteem, your obedient servant
and friend,
Cologne Court Organist.
[Footnote 1: On his return from Vienna, whither Max Franz had sent him for the further
cultivation of his talents.]

Vienna, March 18, 1827.
No words can express my feelings on reading your letter of the 1st of March.
The noble liberality of the Philharmonic Society, which almost anticipated my
request, has touched me to my inmost soul.[1] I beg you, therefore, dear
Moscheles, to be my organ in conveying to the Society my heartfelt thanks for
their generous sympathy and aid.
[Say[2] to these worthy men, that if God restores me to health, I shall endeavor
to prove the reality of my gratitude by my actions. I therefore leave it to the
Society to choose what I am to write for them–a symphony (the 10th) lies fully
sketched in my desk, and likewise a new overture and some other things. With
regard to the concert the Philharmonic had resolved to give in my behalf, I
would entreat them not to abandon their intention. In short, I will strive to
fulfil every wish of the Society, and never shall I have begun any work with so
much zeal as on this occasion. May Heaven only soon grant me the restoration
of my health, and then I will show the noble-hearted English how highly I
value their sympathy with my sad fate.] I was compelled at once to draw for
the whole sum of 1000 gulden, being on the eve of borrowing money.
Your generous conduct can never be forgotten by me, and I hope shortly to
convey my thanks to Sir Smart in particular, and to Herr Stumpff. I beg you
will deliver the metronomed 9th Symphony to the Society. I enclose the proper
Your friend, with high esteem,
[Footnote 1: A hundred pounds had been sent at once.][Footnote 2: In the original the words placed within brackets are dictated by
Beethoven himself, and were indeed the last he ever dictated–but they are
crossed out.]


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