Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven's later life was greatly disturbed by grave family responsibilities, by litigations, financial worries and failing health. His deafness had now become much worse. The last five years of his life all communication with him was carried on by written word. There seems no tragedy of history greater than Beethoven's deafness. He was about twenty-eight years old when the first symptoms asserted themselves, gradually became morbidly sensitive over the threatening infirmity; in that pathetic letter to his brother known as "The Will," written in 1802, one gets a realization of the depth of melancholy into which he was plunged. Wagner gave in seven words an idea of what deafness meant to Beethoven, when he said: "Is a blind painter to be imagined?" With increase of the infirmity he retired more and more into himself. Shut out from the world, he lived the life of the spirit and brought forth works whose dominant note is spiritual exaltation The world profited by his deafness, but the world cannot forget the tragedy of it, Beethoven at the piano his head close to the wooden shell of a resonator, ear-trumpet at ear; Beethoven making failure in the conducting of his opera (1822); Beethoven standing with his back to the thunder of applause greeting his Choral Symphony, turned round by a kindly hand that he may "see" the plaudits he cannot hear.
Irritable, impatient of restraint or intrusion, Beethoven was always harassed by those about him, always moving from one lodging to another. Even m the early days of residence with the Lichnowskies he was not able to endure what few restraints were put upon him by the close association and left their great house for the freedom of a humble lodging outside. After his mother's death he seems never really to have had a home, though a pitiable attempt at one was made late in life. No matter how his work absorbed him, and though he sacrificed everything else to music, throughout his life duty to his family would draw him away from seclusion and absorption. When, in 1812, rumors reached him that gossips were talking about his brother Johann's relations to a woman he had taken for housekeeper, Ludwig hastened to Linz, where Johann lived, used argument and, it is said, physical violence, to enforce the point that the family good name was at stake, and that the young woman must be got rid of. In the end Johann married her. The brother, Caspar Carl, had married a woman of uncertain character, to whom Beethoven always referred as " Queen of Night," and when Carl died he left his son to Ludwig, in a belated feeling of responsibility making provision for a fit guardian for the youth. The mother, very much averse to giving the control of her son to his uncle, began legal proceedings to obtain full control herself. And then followed years of litigation that were very distressing and disturbing to Beethoven. The suit would now be favorable to one side, now to the other, the nephew meanwhile residing with the party winning the temporary success. Beethoven had a passionate sense of responsibility to his dead brother's wish, and made most strenuous effort to keep the boy Carl from his mother's influence. He even went so far as to set up housekeeping. The result, for this most impracticable and impatient of householders, was a cheerless, desolate abode, the master harried by petty trials and details.
The nephew for whom all the sacrifice was being made, ill repaid it all; an undisciplined, wayward lad, he went from bad to worse, causing Beethoven great anxiety and pain. His uncle, noting that he had talent, tried to make a musician of him, having Czerny give him lessons.. He desired also that Carl be a scholar, and carefully watched over his education. But Carl disappointed him ever; when he entered the University and tried for his degree, he failed; at the examinations of the Polytechnic School, where effort was made for him after the University course proved impossible, he again failed. The young man now tried to end his career by shooting himself, and failed here. But through all the trouble and disgrace Beethoven clung to the nephew, his influence mitigated the severity of the police vigilance kept over Carl after the attempted suicide, and he was instrumental in getting him placed as favorably as possible in the army.