At Home and Abroad

By Friedrich Kerst


163.     “I assure you that without travel we (at least men of the arts and sciences) are miserable creatures. A man of mediocre talent will remain mediocre whether he travel or not; but a man of superior talent (which I can not deny I am, without doing wrong) deteriorates if he remains continually in one place.”

 (Paris, September 11, 1778, to his father, who had secured an appointment for him at Salzburg which he was loath to accept. He asked that the Archbishop permit him to travel once in two years.  He feared that he “would find no congenial society” in Salzburg, where, moreover, music did not stand in large appreciation.  Mozart’s subsequent experiences were of the most pitiable character.)

164.     “Write me, how is Mr. Canary? Does he still sing? Does he still pipe? Do you know why I am thinking of the canary? Because there is one in our anteroom that makes the same little sounds as ours.”

 (Naples, May 19, 1770, to his sister. Mozart was very fond of animals. In a letter from Vienna to his sister on August 21, 1773, he writes: “How is Miss Bimbes? Please present all manner of compliments to her.” “Miss Bimbes” was a dog. At another time he wrote a pathetic little poem on the death of a starling. While in the midst of the composition and rehearsal of “Idomeneo” he wrote to his father: “Give Pimperl (a dog) a pinch of Spanish snuff, a good wine-biscuit and three busses.”)

165.     “Because of my disposition which leans towards a quiet, domestic life rather than to boisterousness, and the fact that since my youth I have never given a thought to my linen, clothing or such things, I can think of nothing more necessary than a wife. I assure you that I frequently spend money unnecessarily because I am negligent of these things. I am convinced that I could get along better than I do now on the same income if I had a wife. How many unnecessary expenditures would be saved? Others are added, it is true, but you know in advance what they are and can adjust them;--in a word you lead a regulated life. In my opinion an unmarried man lives only half a life; that is my conviction and I can not help it. I have resolved the matter over and over in my mind and am of the same opinion still.”

(Vienna, December 15, 1781, to his father.)

166.     “At present I have only one pupil....I could have several if I were to lower my fee; but as soon as one does that one loses credit. My price is twelve lessons for six ducats, and I make it understood besides that I give the lessons as a favor. I would rather have three pupils who pay well than six who pay ill. I am writing this to you to prevent you from thinking that it is selfishness which prevents me from sending you more than thirty ducats.”

(Vienna, June 16, 1781, to his father. [In American money Mozart’s fee is represented by $1.20 per lesson. H.E.K.])

167.     “I could not go about Vienna looking like a tramp, particularly just at this time. My linen was pitiable; no servant here has shirts of such coarse stuff as mine,--and that certainly is a frightful thing for a man. Consequently there were again expenditures. I had only one pupil; she suspended her lessons for three weeks, and I was again the loser. One must not throw one’s self away here,--that is a first principle,--or one is ruined forever. The most audacious man wins the day.”

(Vienna, September 5, 1781, to his father, excusing himself for not having made remittances.)

168.     “Resent anything and at once you receive smaller pay.  Besides all this the Emperor is a skinflint. If the Emperor wants me he ought to pay for me; the mere honor of being in his employ is not enough. If the Emperor were to offer me 1,000 florins and a count 2,000, I should present my compliments to the Emperor and go to the count,--assuming a guarantee, of course.”

(Vienna, April 10, 1782, to his father. Mozart was not too industrious in the pursuit of a court appointment, yet had reason to be hopeful. Near the end of his short life the appointment came from Joseph II, to whom Mozart had been too faithful.)

169.     “I described my manner of life to my father only recently, and I will now repeat it to you. At six o’clock in the morning I am already done with my friseur, and at seven I am fully dressed.  Thereupon I compose until nine o’clock. From nine to one I give lessons; then I eat unless I am a guest at places where they dine at two or even three o’clock,--as, for instance, today and tomorrow with Countess Zichy and Countess Thun. I can not work before five or six o’clock in the evening and I am often prevented even then by a concert; if not I write till nine. Then I go to my dear Constanze, where the delight of our meeting is generally embittered by the words of her mother;--hence my desire to free and save her as soon as possible. At half after ten or eleven I am again at home. Since (owing to the occasional concerts and the uncertainty as to whether or not I may be called out) I can not depend on having time for composition in the evening, I am in the habit (particularly when I come home early) of writing something before I go to bed. Frequently I forget myself and write till one o’clock,--then up again at six.”

 (Vienna, February 13, 1782, to his sister Marianne—Nannerl, as he called her.)

170.     “We do not go to bed before 12 o’clock and get up half after five or five, because nearly every day we take an early walk in the Augarten.”

 (Vienna, May 26, 1784, to his father, to whom he complains of his maid-servant who came from Salzburg and who had written to the father that she was not permitted to sleep except between 11 and 6 o’clock.)

171.     “Now as to my mode of life: As soon as you were gone I played two games of billiards with Herr von Mozart who wrote the opera for Schickaneder’s theatre; then I sold my nag for fourteen ducats; then I had Joseph call my primus and bring a black coffee, to which I smoked a glorious pipe of tobacco....At 5:30 I went out of the door and took my favorite promenade through the Glacis to the theatre. What do I see? What do I smell? It is the primus with the cutlet Gusto! I eat to your health. It has just struck 11 o’clock. Perhaps you are already asleep. Sh! sh! sh! I do not want to wake you.”

 “Saturday, the 8th. You ought to have seen me yesterday at supper! I could not find the old dishes and therefore produced a set as white as snow-flowers and had the wax candelabra in front of me.”

(Vienna, October 7, 1791, to his wife, who was taking the waters at Baden. Mozart was fond of billiards and often played alone as on this occasion. He was careful of his health and had been advised by his physician to ride; but he could not acquire a taste for the exercise—Hence the sale of his horse. The primus was his valet, a servant found in every Viennese household at the time. Out of the door through which he stepped on beginning his walk to the theatre his funeral procession passed two months later.)

172.     “I have done more work during the ten days that I have lived here than in two months in any other lodgings; and if it were not that I am too often harassed by gloomy thoughts which I can dispel only by force, I could do still more, for I live pleasantly, comfortably and cheaply.”

 (Vienna, June 27, 1788, to his friend Puchberg.)

173.     “I have no conveniences for writing there (i.e. at Baden), and I want to avoid embarrassments as much as possible. Nothing is more enjoyable than a quiet life and to obtain that one must be industrious. I am glad to be that.”

 (Vienna, October 8, 1791, to his wife at Baden. Mozart probably refers to work on his “Requiem.” He says further: “If I had had nothing to do I would have gone with you to spend the week.”)

174.     “Now the babe against my will, yet with my consent, has been provided with a wet nurse. It was always my determination that, whether she was able to do so or not, my wife was not to suckle her child; but neither was the child to guzzle the milk of another woman. I want it brought up on water as I and my sister were, but...”

 (Vienna, June 8, 1783, to his father, the day after his first child was born. The “Dear, thick, fat little fellow” died soon after.)

175.     “Young as I am, I never go to bed without thinking that possibly I may not be alive on the morrow; yet not one of the many persons who know me can say that I am morose or melancholy.  For this happy disposition I thank my Creator daily, and wish with all my heart that it were shared by all my fellows.”

 (Vienna, April 4, 1787, to his father, shortly before the latter’s death. Mozart himself died when, he was not quite thirty-six years old.)

176.     “If it chances to be convenient I shall call on the Fischers for a moment; longer than that I could not endure their warm room and the wine at table. I know very well that people of their class think they are bestowing the highest honors when they offer these things, but I am not fond of such things,--still less of such people.”

 (Vienna, December 22, 1781, to his sister. Mozart was acquainted with the Fischer family from the time of his first journeys as a child. The contrast which he draws between the artist and the comfort-loving, commonplace citizen is diverting.)

177.     “The Viennese are a people who soon grow weary and listless,--but only of the theatre. My forte is too popular to be neglected. This, surely, is Clavierland!”

 (Spoken to Count Arco who had warned him against removing to Vienna because of the fickleness of the Viennese public. He wanted him to return to Salzburg.)

178.     “I am writing at a place called Reisenberg which is an hour’s distance from Vienna. I once stayed here over night; now I shall remain a few days. The house is insignificant, but the surroundings, the woods in which a grotto has been built as natural as can be, are splendid and very pleasant.”

 (Vienna, July 13, 1781, to his father. Like Beethoven, Mozart loved nature and wanted a garden about his home.)

179.     “I wish that my sister were here in Rome. I am sure she would be pleased with the city, for St. Peter’s church is regular, and many other things in Rome are regular.”

 (Rome, April 14, 1770. A droll criticism from the traveling virtuoso, aged 14, in a letter to his mother and sister.)

180.     “Carefully thinking it over I conclude that in no country have I received so many honors or been so highly appreciated as in Italy. You get credit in Italy if you have written an opera,--especially in Naples.”

 (Munich, October 11, 1777, to his father. An influential friend had offered to help him get an appointment in Italy.)

181.     “Strassburg can’t get along without me. You have no idea how

I am honored and loved here. The people say that everything I do is refined, that I am so sedate and courteous and have so good a bearing. Everybody knows me.”

(Strassburg, October 26, 1778, to his father, on his return journey from Paris. On October 3 he had written: “I beg your pardon if I cannot write much. It is because, unless I am in a city in which I am well known, I am never in a good humor. If I were acquainted here I would gladly stay, for the city is truly charming—beautiful houses, handsome broad streets, and superb squares.”)

182.     “Oh, what a difference between the people of the Palatinate and of Bavaria! What a language! How coarse! To say nothing of the mode of life!”

 (Mannheim, November 12, 1778, to his father. Mozart, while returning from Paris, had stopped at his “dear Mannheim,” where at the moment a regiment of Bavarian soldiers were quartered, and had just got news of the rudeness with which the people of Munich had treated their Elector.)

183.     “In Regensburg we dined magnificently at noon, listened to divine table music, had angelic service and glorious Mosel wine.  We breakfasted in Nuremberg,--a hideous city. At Wurzburg we strengthened our stomachs with coffee; a beautiful, a splendid city. The charges were moderate everywhere. Only two post relays from here, in Aschaffenburg, the landlord swindled us shamefully.”

 (Frankfort-on-the-Main, September 29, 1790, to his wife. The remark is notable because of the judgments pronounced on the renaissance city Nuremberg, and the rococo city Wurzburg.)

184.     “All the talk about the imperial cities is mere boasting. I am famous, admired and loved here, it is true, but the people are worse than the Viennese in their parsimony.”

 (Mozart went to Frankfort, in 1790, on the occasion of the coronation of the emperor, hoping to make enough money with concerts to help himself out of financial difficulties, but failed.)

 



 


 

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