Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven, the indefatigable worker, died in harness and did not live to enjoy the ease he dreamed some day was to follow after the strain and stress. It was in 1826 that Beethoven's nephew was put in his charge by the authorities, on condition that he be removed from Vienna immediately. Johann Beethoven offered uncle and nephew the hospitality of his country place, and for Carl's sake the offer was accepted. The visit proved a most unfortunate one; Johann's arrogance and pretensions grated hard on Ludwig's sincerity and simplicity and the latter's eccentricities undoubtedly must have been disturbing to Johann's household. The visit terminated abruptly and disastrously, and, on the return journey to Vienna in the inclement December weather, Beethoven suffered from exposure, contracted a violent cold and arrived at his quarters in the city very ill indeed. Difficulty was experienced in getting a physician for him he had quarreled with the two who formerly attended him and his condition grew more and more serious. His nephew cared for him at the first, and his friends, as soon as they heard of the illness, hastened to give their services. He lingered on until toward the end of March. During the long illness, SchindleP and Stephen von Breuning came daily and the eleven-year-old Gerhard Breuning, Stephen's son, was his constant attendant, while Carl Holz, whose companionship he had been wont to find of much cheer, was a frequent visitor. He tried to work, but weakness forced him to desist, his last finished work being the B flat Quartet completed in November, 1826. Anxiety about money proved a worry, for he was very loth to draw on his savings. In 1815 he had made his one investment, buying shares to the value of 10,000 florins in the Bank of Austria, and this was carefully guarded for Carl. It was of great help when there arrived at this juncture the sum of $500, sent by the London Philharmonic Society as advance on a benefit concert they were to give.
Carl presently received his army appointment and uncle and nephew parted, not to meet again. Beethoven for years had suffered from trouble with the liver, which now became much aggravated, and several operations were necessary to remove the dropsical accumulations. He grew very weak. On the 23d of March, aware that the end was near, he added a codicil to his will, which provided that Carl be allowed only the income from his estate. On the 24th he received the sacraments of the church, and then began the long death-struggle. Late in the afternoon of the 26th there came a strange storm of hail and snow accompanied by lightning and thunder; the outburst seemed to reach even his dull senses and long-deafened ears, he opened his eyes, threw out his arm as though in defiance, and died. He was but fifty-six years old. The funeral, which took place on the 29th, was attended by a multitude; twenty thousand people, it is estimated. Eight musicians carried the coffin, among the torch-bearers surrounding the body being Czerny and Schubert. A choir of sixteen male singers and four trombones alternately sang and played; the music having been originally written by Beethoven for trombones, and arranged for the choir by Seyfried. On April 3 Mozart's Requiem was sung for him, and on April 5 Cherubini's Requiem.
Beethoven the man is most difficult to present, his surface, of almost insane irritability and eccentricity, obscuring the nobility and purity deep down in his character and finding lofty expression in his music. This great genius often appeared a pitiable, ludicrous figure, there being story upon story to illustrate his extreme irritability and absent-mindedness; the books thrown at the servant girl, the stew over the waiter's head, standing in his night-clothes by the open window in the morning to the enjoyment of the passers-by and perplexed when a friend suggests that he awaken to the peculiarity of this act. He was by turns joyous and morbid, affectionate and distrustful. Witness his love of nature; he ever sought the country at the approach of summer, his best work being done under the inspiration of out-of-doors. In his childlike pleasure in field and wood, he exclaims, "No man on earth can love the country as I do." In sharp contrast to this is his quarrelsomeness and unjust suspicions of friend, as well as foe. He accuses faithful Ries of treachery; parts with Prince Lichnowsky in anger; grossly assails the patient friends, Schuppanzigh and Schindler, when they are making tactful efforts in his behalf; breaks off the precious friendship with Stephen von Breuning and continually insults and rebuffs the tireless Schindler, Beethoven's " Boswell." He was fond of horse-play, a great joker, yet had no relish for the joke turned on himself. To every thing and everybody he gave a nickname his brother is Asinus; his cook, Frau Schnapps; Prince Lobkowitz, Fitzli Putzli. The oft-told story of the card returned to his arrogant brother is as follows: Johann sends in to Beethoven a card bearing the inscription, Johann van Beethoven, Landed Proprietor; it is returned with this writing on the back, Ludwig van Beethoven, Brain Proprietor. Also a grim humor characterized him, which one writer suggests was a device deliberately assumed to escape mental suffering.