Morals

By Friedrich Kerst


As regards his manner of life and morals Mozart long stood in a bad light before the world. The slanderous stories all came from his enemies in Vienna, and a long time passed before their true character was recognized. A great contribution to this end was made by the publication of his letters, which disclose an extraordinarily strong moral sense. The tale of an alleged liaison with a certain Frau Hofdamel, as a result of which the deceived husband was said to have committed suicide, has been proved to be wholly untrue and without warrant.

It may be said, indeed, that Mozart was an exception among the men of his period. The immorality of the Viennese was proverbial.  Karoline Pichler, a contemporary, writes as follows in her book of recollections of the eighth decade of the eighteenth century:

“In Vienna at the time there reigned a spirit of appreciation for merriment and a susceptibility for every form of beauty and sensuous pleasure. There was the greatest freedom of thought and opinion; anything could be written and printed which was not, in the strictest sense of the words, contrary to religion and the state. Little thought was bestowed on good morals. There was considerable license in the current plays and novels. Kotzebue created a tremendous sensation. His plays...and a multitude of romances and tales (Meissner’s sketches among other things) were all based on meretricious relations. All the world and every young girl read them without suspicion or offence. More than once had I read and seen these things; ‘Oberon’ was well known to me; so was Meissner’s ‘Alcibiades.’ No mother hesitated to acquaint her daughter with such works and before our eyes there were so many living exemplars whose irregular conduct was notorious, that no mother could have kept her daughter in ignorance had she tried.”

Mozart was a passionate jester and his jokes were coarse enough; of that there is no doubt. But these things were innocent at the time. The letters of the lad to his little cousin in Augsburg contain many passages that would be called of questionable propriety now; but the little cousin does not seem to have even blushed. The best witness to the morality of Mozart’s life is his wife, who, after his death, wrote to the publishing firm of Breitkopf and Hartel: “His letters are beyond doubt the best criterion for his mode of thought, his peculiarities and his education. Admirably characteristic is his extraordinary love for me, which breathes through all his letters. Those of his last year on earth are just as tender as those which he must have written in the first year of our married life;--is it not so? I beg as a particular favor that special attention be called to this fact for the sake of his honor.”

He was a Freemason with all his heart, and gave expression to his humanitarian feeling in his opera “The Magic Flute.” Without suspicion himself, he thought everybody else good, which led to painful experiences with some of his friends.

230.     “Parents strive to place their children in a position which shall enable them to earn their own living; and this they owe to their children and the state. The greater the talents with which the children have been endowed by God, the more are they bound to make use of those talents to improve the conditions of themselves and their parents, to aid their parents and to care for their own present and future welfare. We are taught thus to trade with our talents in the Gospels. I owe it, therefore, to God and my conscience to pay the highest gratitude to my father, who tirelessly devoted all his hours to my education, and to lighten his burdens.”

 (From his request for dismissal from service in August, 1777. He wished to undertake an artistic tour with his father. He received his dismissal from the Archbishop of Salzburg, who granted it right unwillingly, however.)

231.     “Only one thing vexed me a trifle,--the question whether I had forgotten confession. I have no complaint to make, but I do ask one favor, and that is that you do not think so ill of me!  I am fond of merriment, but, believe me, I can also be serious.  Since I left Salzburg (and while still in Salzburg) I have met persons whose conduct was such that I would have been ashamed to talk and act as they did though they were ten, twenty or thirty years older than I! Again I humbly beg of you to have a better opinion of me.”

 (Mannheim, December 30, 1777, to his father, in answer to a letter of reproaches.)

232.     “With all my heart I do wish Herr von Schiedenhofen joy. It is another marriage for money and nothing else. I should not like to marry thus; I want to make my wife happy,--not have her make my fortune. For that reason I shall not marry but enjoy my golden freedom until I am so situated that I can support wife and children. It was necessary that Herr Sch. should marry a rich woman; that’s the consequence of being a nobleman. The nobility must never marry from inclination or love, but only from considerations of interest, and all manner of side considerations. Nor would it be becoming in such persons if they were still to love their wives after the latter had done their duty and brought forth a plump heir.”

 (Mannheim, February 7, 1778, to his father.)

233.     “In my opinion there is nothing more shameful than to deceive an honest girl.”

 (Paris, July 18, 1778, to his father.)

234.     “I am unconscious of any guilt for which I might fear your reproaches. I have committed no error (meaning by error any act unbecoming to a Christian and an honest man). I am anticipating the pleasantest and happiest days, but only in company with you and my dearest sister. I swear to you on my honor that I can not endure Salzburg and its citizens (I speak of the natives). Their speech and mode of life are utterly intolerable.”

 (Munich, January 8, 1779, to his father, who was urging his return from Paris to take the post of chapelmaster in Salzburg.  The musicians of Salzburg were notorious because of their loose lives.)

235.     “From the way in which my last letter was received I observe to my sorrow that (just as if I were an arch scoundrel or an ass, or both at once) you trust the tittle-tattle and scribblings of other people more than you do me. But I assure you that this does not give me the least concern. The people may write the eyes out of their heads, and you may applaud them as much as you please, it will not cause me to change a hair’s breadth; I shall remain the same honest fellow that I have always been.”

 (Vienna, September 5, 1781, to his father, who was still listening to the slander mongers. Mozart could not lightly forget the fact that it was due to these gentlemen that he had been forced to leave the house of the widow Weber with whose daughter Constanze he was in love.)

236.     “You have been deceived in your son if you could believe him capable of doing a mean thing....You know that I could not have acted otherwise without outraging my conscience and my honor....I beg pardon for my too hasty trust in your paternal love. Through this frank confession you have a new proof of my love of truth and detestation of a lie.”

 (Vienna, August 7, 1782, to his father, whose consent to his son’s marriage did not arrive till the day after.)

237.     “Dearest and best of fathers:--I beg of you, for the sake of all that is good in the world, give your consent to my marriage with my dear Constanze. Do not think that it is alone because of my desire to get married; I could well wait. But I see that it is absolutely essential to my honor, the honor of my sweetheart, to my health and frame of mind. My heart is ill at ease, my mind disturbed;--then how shall I do any sensible thinking or work?  Why is this? Most people think we are already married; this enrages the mother and the poor girl and I are tormented almost to death. All this can be easily relieved. Believe me it is possible to live as cheaply in expensive Vienna as anywhere else; it all depends on the housekeeping and the orderliness which is never to be found in a young man especially if he be in love.  Whoever gets a wife such as I am going to have can count himself fortunate. We shall live simply and quietly, and yet be happy.  Do not worry; for should I (which God forefend!) get ill today, especially if I were married, I wager that the first of the nobility would come to my help....I await your consent with longing, best of fathers, I await it with confidence, my honor and fame depend upon it.”

 (Vienna, July 27, 1782.)

238.     “Meanwhile my striving is to secure a small certainty; then with the help of the contingencies, it will be easy to live here; and then to marry. I beg of you, dearest and best of fathers, listen to me! I have preferred my request, now listen to my reasons. The calls of nature are as strong in me, perhaps stronger, than in many a hulking fellow. I can not possibly live like the majority of our young men. In the first place I have too much religion, in the second too much love for my fellow man and too great a sense of honor ever to betray a girl....”

 (Vienna, December 18, 1781. [The whole of this letter deserves to be read by those who, misled by the reports, still deemed trustworthy when Jahn published the first edition of his great biography, believed that Mozart was a man of bad morals.  Unfortunately Mozart’s candor in presenting his case to his father can scarcely be adjusted to the requirements of a book designed for general circulation. Let it suffice that in his confession to his father Mozart puts himself on the ground of the loftiest sexual purity, and stakes life and death on the truthfulness of his statements. H.E.K.])

239.     “You surely can not be angry because I want to get married?

I think and believe that you will recognize best my piety and honorable intentions in the circumstance. O, I could easily write a long answer to your last letter, and offer many objections; but my maxim is that it is not worth while to discuss matters that do not affect me. I can’t help it,--it’s my nature. I am really ashamed to defend myself when I find myself falsely accused;

I always think, the truth will out some day.”

(Vienna, January 9, 1782, to his father. In the same letter he continues: “I can not be happy and contented without my dear Constanze, and without your satisfied acquiescence, I could only be half happy. Therefore, make me wholly happy.”)

240.     “As I have thought and said a thousand times I would gladly leave everything in your hands with the greatest pleasure, but since, so to speak, it is useless to you but to my advantage, I deem it my duty to remember my wife and children.”

 (June 16, 1787, to his sister, concerning his inheritance from his father who had died on May 28.)

241.     “Isn’t it true that you are daily becoming more convinced of the truth of my corrective sermons? Is not the amusement of a fickle and capricious love far as the heavens from the blessedness which true, sensible love brings with it? Do you not often thank me in your heart for my instruction? You will soon make me vain! But joking aside, you do owe me a modicum of gratitude if you have made yourself worthy of Fraulein N., for I certainly did not play the smallest role at your conversion.”

 (Prague, November 4, 1787, to a wealthy young friend, name unknown.)

242.     “Pray believe anything you please about me but nothing ill. There are persons who believe it is impossible to love a poor girl without harboring wicked intentions; and the beautiful word mistress is so lovely!--I am a Mozart, but a young and well meaning Mozart. Among many faults I have this that I think that the friends who know me, know me. Hence many words are not necessary. If they do not know me where shall I find words enough? It is bad enough that words and letters are necessary.”

(Mannheim, February 22, 1778, to his father, who had rebuked him for falling in love with Aloysia Weber, who afterward became his sister-in-law.)

 



 

 


 

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