(Taken from Alexander Wheelock Thayer’s monumental Life of Beethoven)

Beethoven’s biographers have devoted more thought, research and writing to [a few days in July 1812] than to any other period … The reason for this is that Beethoven wrote a three-part letter of such intensity to an unknown lady that ever since its discovery among the composer’s possessions after his death, there has been speculation as to when it was written and to whom. While the study of evidence has now established the year of its writing as 1812, no such success can be claimed for the question of the identity of the intended recipient of this letter. There is voluminous material on this subject, but no proof.

It is possible that the letter was never sent. The impassioned mood of the writing forms the last and by far the most vehement expression that Beethoven gave to his life-long idealistic concept of union with one of the other sex. And yet, throughout these three outbursts is revealed already the hopelessness of this ideal from the composer’s point of view. The tone of the last part of the letter particularly is that of one who is making up his mind and is attempting to convince one fully in love with him of the necessity of this decision. It is not surprising to find a sense of tedium in Beethoven’s life as an aftermath to this crisis.

N.B. the German “unsterbliche Geliebte” should be translated as “eternally beloved”. However, since the term “Immortal Beloved” has been used and accepted so frequently in English editions that it has become standard, the present editor has chosen to retain this wording.

July 6, in the morning

My angel, my all, my very self – Only a few words today and at that with pencil (with yours) – Not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon – what a useless waste of time – Why this deep sorrow when necessity speaks – can our love endure except through sacrifices, through not demanding everything of one another; can you change the fact that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine – Oh God, look out into the beauties of nature and comfort yourself with that which must be – Love demands everything and that very justly – thus it is to me with you, and to you with me. If only you do not forget that I must live for me and for you; if we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I – My journey was a fearful one; I did not reach here until 4 o’clock yesterday morning. Lacking horses the post-coach chose another route, but what an awful one; at the stage before the last I was warned not to travel at night; I was made fearful of a forest, but that only made me the more eager – and I was wrong. The coach must needs break down on the wretched road, a bottomless mud road. Without such positilions as I had with me I should have remained stuck in the road. Esterhazy, travelling the usual road here, had the same fate with eight horses that I had with four – Yet I got some pleasure out of it, as I always do when I overcome difficulties – Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during the last few days touching my own life – If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these. My heart is full of so many things to say to you – ah – there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all – Cheer up – remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours. The gods must send us the rest, what for us must and shall be – Your faithful, Ludwig

Evening, Monday, July 6

You are suffering, my dearest creature – Just now I have learned that letters must be posted very early in the morning on Mondays – or on Thursdays – the only days on which the mail-coach goes from here to K[arlsbad]. You are suffering – Ah, wherever I am, there you are also – I will arrange it with you and me that I can live with you. What a life!!!! thus!!!! without you – pursued by the goodness of mankind hither and thither – which I as little want to deserve as I deserve it – Humility of man towards man – it pains me – and when I consider myself in relation to the universe, what I am and what is he – whom we call the greatest – and yet – herein lies the divine in man – I weep when I reflect that you will probably not receive the first report from me until Saturday – Much as you love me – I love you more – But do not ever conceal yourself from me – good night – As I am taking the baths I must go to bed – Oh God – so near! so far! Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of Heaven?

Good morning, on July 7

Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us – I can live only wholly with you or not at all – Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits – Yes, unhappily it must be so – You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart – never – never – Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V[ienna] is now a wretched life – Your love makes me at once the happiest and unhappiest of men – At my age I need a steady, quiet life – can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mail-coach goes every day – and I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once. Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

Ever thine
Ever mine
Ever ours

L.

I get the feeling that before writing the second part of this letter on the Monday evening, Beethoven, tired after his dreadful journey, had probably consumed one or two glasses, if not bottles, of wine. The next morning he finished the letter with a hangover, then stuffed it in his pocket and never sent it. I only say this because I’ve done the same thing with love letters, although not often enough to avoid getting mixed up with some bizarre women.

So, boys and girls, don’t write love letters, or text, or tweet, when you’re drunk.

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