Self-Respect and Honor

By Friedrich Kerst

Beethoven is said to have been the first musician who compelled respect for his craft,--he who, prouder than Goethe, associated with royalties, and said of himself, “I, too, am a king!” Mozart rose from a dependent position which brought him most grievous humiliations; he was looked upon as a servant of the Archbishop of Salzburg, and treated accordingly. At the time composers and musicians had no higher standing. Mozart feels the intolerableness of his position and protests against it on every opportunity; he is conscious of his worth and intellectual superiority. When he endures the grossest indignities from his tormentor, Archbishop Hieronymus, it is for the sake of his father whom he would save from annoyance. In all things else he follows the example of his father, but in the matter of self-respect he admonishes and encourages his parent. Although Beethoven rudely rejected the condescending good will of the great which would have made Mozart happy, and demanded respect as an equal, it must be confessed that the generally manly conduct of Mozart was an excellent preparation of the Viennese soil.

120.     “I only wish that the Elector were here; he might hear something to his advantage. He knows nothing about me, knows nothing about my ability. What a pity that these grand gentlemen take everybody’s word and are unwilling to investigate for themselves! It’s always the way. I am willing to make a test; let him summon all the composers in Munich, and even invite a few from Italy, Germany, England and Spain; I will trust myself in a competition with them all.”

 (Munich, October 2, 1777, to his father. Mozart had hoped to secure an appointment in Munich, but was disappointed.)

121.     “I could scarcely refrain from laughing when I was introduced to the people. A few, who knew me par renommee, were very polite and respectful; others who know nothing about me stared at me as if they were a bit amused. They think that because I am small and young that there can be nothing great and old in me. But they shall soon find out.”

 (Mannheim, October 31, 1777, to his father.)

122.     “We poor, common folk must not only take wives whom we love and who love us, but we may, can and want to take such because we are neither noble, well-born nor rich, but lowly, mean and poor.  Hence we do not need rich wives because our wealth dies with us, being in our heads. Of this wealth no man can rob us unless he cuts off our heads, in which case we should have need of nothing more.”

 (Mannheim, February 7, 1778, to his father. Mozart had fallen in love with Aloysia, daughter of the poor musician Weber.)

123.     “I will gladly give lessons to oblige, particularly if I see that a person has talent and a joyous desire to learn. But to go to a house at a fixed hour, or wait at home for the arrival of some one, that I can not do, no matter how much it might yield me; I leave that to others who can do nothing else than play the clavier,--for me it is impossible. I am a composer and was born to be a chapelmaster. I dare not thus bury the talent for composition which a kind God gave me in such generous measure (I may say this without pride for I feel it now more than ever before), and that is what I should do had I many pupils. Teaching is a restless occupation and I would rather neglect clavier playing than composition; the clavier is a side issue, though, thank God, a strong one.”

 (Mannheim, February 7, 1778, to his father, who must have read the words with sorrow, since he and his daughter Nannerl were laboriously giving lessons and practicing economy to make Mozart’s journey possible and had to advance money to him.)

124.     “I know of a certainty that the Emperor intends to establish a German opera in Vienna, and is earnestly seeking a young conductor who understands the German language, has genius and is capable of giving the world something new. Benda of Gotha is seeking the place and Schweitzer is also an applicant. I believe this would be a good thing for me,--but with good pay, as a matter of course. If the Emperor will give me a thousand florins, I will write a German opera for him, and if then he does not wish to retain me, all right. I beg of you, write to all the good friends in Vienna whom you can think of that I would do honor to the Emperor. If there is no other way let him try me with an opera.”

 (Mannheim, January 10, 1778, to his father.)

125.     “The greatest favor that Herr Grimm showed me was to lend me

15 Louis d’Or in driblets at the (life and) death of my blessed mother. Is he fearful that the loan will not be returned? If so he truly deserves a kick—for he shows distrust of my honesty (the only thing that can throw me into a rage), and also of my talent....In a word he belongs to the Italian party, is deceitful and is seeking to oppress me.”

(Paris, September 11, 1778, to his father, who was on a friendly footing with the French encyclopaedist Grimm since the first artistic tour made with little Wolfgang in 1763, when he owed many favors to Grimm. Apparently Mozart here does an injustice to his patron, who, it is true, thought highly of the Italian Piccini.)

126.     “On my honor, I can’t help it; it’s the kind of man I am.

Lately when he spoke to me rudely, foolishly and stupidly, I did not dare to say to him that he need not worry about the 15 Louis d’Or for fear that I might offend him. I did nothing but endure and ask if he were ready; and then—your obedient servant.”

(Paris, September 11, 1778, to his father, at whose request Baron Grimm had received the young artist in Paris, but at the same time had exercised a sort of artistic guardianship over him.  Wolfgang had written to his father as early as August 27: “If you write to him do not be too humble in your thanks;--there are reasons.” On another occasion: “Grimm is able to assist children, but not adults. Do not imagine that he is the man he was.”)

127.     “You know that I want nothing more than good employment,-- good in character and good in recompense, let it be where it will if the place be but Catholic...; but if the Salzburgians want me they must satisfy my desires or they will certainly not get me.”

 (Paris, July 3, 1778, to his father, who wished to see his son in the service of the archiepiscopal court at Salzburg.)

128.     “The Prince must have confidence either in you or me, and give us complete control of everything relating to music; otherwise all will be in vain. For in Salzburg everybody or nobody has to do with music. If I were to undertake it I should demand free hands. In matters musical the Head Court Chamberlain should have nothing to say; a cavalier can not be a conductor, but a conductor can well be a cavalier.”

 (Paris, July 9, 1778.)

129.     “If the Archbishop were to entrust it to me I would soon make his music famous, that’s sure....But I have one request to make at Salzburg, and that is that I shall not be placed among the violins where I used to be; I’ll never make a fiddler. I will conduct at the clavier and accompany the arias. It would have been a good thing if I had secured a written assurance of the conductorship.”

 (Paris, September 11, 1778, to his father who had urged him to return to Salzburg to receive an appointment to the conductorship. Mozart seems to have a premonition of the treatment which he received later from the Archbishop.)

130.     “I must admit that I should reach Salzburg with a lighter heart if I were not aware that I have taken service there; it is only this thought that is intolerable. Put yourself in my place and think it over. At Salzburg I do not know who or what I am; I am everything and at times nothing. I do not demand too much or too little;--only something, if I am something.”

 (Strassburg, October 15, 1778, to his father, while returning from Paris filled with repugnance to the Archbishop. “For aside from obeying a praiseworthy and beautiful motive” (he means filial affection), “I am really committing the greatest folly in the world,” he writes in the same letter.)

131.     “The Archbishop can not recompense me for the slavery in Salzburg! As I have said I experience great pleasure when I think of visiting you again, but nothing but vexation and fear at the thought of seeing myself at that beggarly court again. The Archbishop must not attempt to put on grand airs with me as he used to; it is not impossible, it is even likely that I would put my fingers to my nose,--and I know full well that you would enjoy it as much as I.”

(Mannheim, November 12, 1778, to his father.)

132.     “At 11 o’clock in the forenoon, a little too early for me, unfortunately, we already go to table; we dine together,--the two temporal and spiritual valets, Mr. the Controller, Mr. Zetti, the Confectioner, Messrs. the two cooks, Ceccarelli, Brunetti and my insignificance. N.B. The two valets sit at the head of the table;

I have at least the honor of sitting above the cooks. Well, I simply think I am at Salzburg. At dinner a great many coarse and silly jokes are cracked, but not at me, because I do not speak a word unless of necessity and then always with the utmost seriousness. As soon as I have dined I go my way.”

(Vienna, March 17, 1781, to his father. The Archbishop was visiting Vienna and had brought with him his best musicians whom, however, he treated shabbily. At length the rupture came; Mozart was dismissed—literally with a kick.)

133.     “Believe me, best of fathers, that I must summon all my manhood to write to you what reason commands. God knows how hard it is for me to leave you; but if beggary were my lot I would no longer serve such a master; for that I shall never forget as long as I live,--and I beg of you, I beg of you for the sake of everything in the world, encourage me in my determination instead of trying to dissuade me. That would unfit me for what I must do.  For it is my desire and hope to win honor, fame and money, and I hope to be of greater service to you in Vienna than in Salzburg.”

 (Vienna, May 12, 1781, to his father.)

134.     “I did not know that I was a valet de chambre, and that broke my neck. I ought to have wasted a few hours every forenoon in the antechamber. I was often told that I should let myself be seen, but I could not recall that this was my duty and came punctually only when the Archbishop summoned me.”

 (Vienna, May 12, 1781.)

135.     “To please you, best of fathers, I would sacrifice my happiness, my health and my life; but my honor is my own, and ought to be above all else to you. Let Count Arco and all Salzburg read this letter.”

 (Vienna, May 19, 1781. It was Count Arco who had dismissed Mozart with a kick. The father was thrown into consternation at the maltreatment of his son and sought to persuade Mozart to return to Salzburg. Mozart replied: “Best, dearest father, ask of me anything you please but not that; the very thought makes me tremble with rage.”)

136.     “You did not think when you wrote this that such a back-step would stamp me as one of the most contemptible fellows in the world. All Vienna knows that I have left the Archbishop, knows why, knows that it is because of my injured honor, of an injury inflicted three times,--and I am to make a public denial, proclaim myself a cur and the Archbishop a noble prince? No man could do the former, least of all I, and the second can only be done by God if He should choose to enlighten him.”

 (Vienna, May 19, 1781, to his father, who had asked him to return to the service of the Archbishop.)

137.     “If it be happiness to be rid of a prince who never pays one, but torments him to death, then I am happy. For if I had to work from morning till night I would do it gladly rather than live off the bounty of such a,--I do not dare to call him by the name he deserves,--I was forced to take the step I did and I can not swerve a hair’s breadth from it; impossible.”

 (Vienna, May 19, 1781.)

138.     “Salzburg is nothing now to me except it offer an opportunity to give the Count a kick...even if it were in the public street. I desire no satisfaction from the Archbishop, for he is not in a position to offer me the kind that I want and must have. Within a day or two I shall write to the Count telling him what he can confidently expect to receive from me the first time I meet him, be it where it may, except a place that commands my respect.”

 (Vienna, June 13, 1781, to his father. Count Arco’s offence has been mentioned. On June 16 Mozart wrote: “The hungry ass shall not escape my chastisement if I have to wait twenty years; for as soon as I see him he shall come in contact with my foot, unless I should be so unfortunate as to see him in the sanctuary.” [The reader will probably guess that the translator is resorting to euphemisms in rendering Mozart’s language. H.E.K.])

139.     “It is the heart that confers the patent of nobility on man; and although I am no count I probably have more honor within me than many a count. Menial or count, whoever insults me is a cur.  I shall begin by representing to him, with complete gravity, how badly he did his business, but at the end I shall have to assure him in writing that he is to expect a kick...and a box on the ear from me; for if a man insults me I have got to be revenged, and if I give him no more than he gave me, it is mere retaliation and not punishment. Besides I should thus put myself on a level with him, and I am too proud to compare myself with such a stupid gelding.”

 (Vienna, June 20, 1781, to his father. These expressions, called out by the insulting treatment received from the Archbishop and Count Arco, are in striking contrast to Mozart’s habitual amiability.)

140.     “I can easily believe that the court parasites will look askance at you, but why need you disturb yourself about such a miserable pack? The more inimical such persons are to you the greater the pride and contempt with which you should look down upon them.”

 (Vienna, June 20, 1778, to his father, who fears that some of the consequences of his son’s step may be visited upon him.)

141.     “I do not ask of you that you make a disturbance or enter the least complaint, but the Archbishop and the whole pack must fear to speak to you about this matter, for you (if compelled) can without the slightest alarm say frankly that you would be ashamed to have reared a son who would have accepted abuse from such an infamous cur as Arco; and you may assure all that if I had the good luck to meet him today I should treat him as he deserves, and that he would have occasion to remember me the rest of his life. All that I want is that everybody shall see in your bearing that you have nothing to fear. Keep quiet; but if necessary, speak, and then to some purpose.”

 (Vienna, July 4, 1781, to his father.)

142.     “I may say that because of Vogler, Winter was always my greatest enemy. But because he is a beast in his mode of life, and in all other matters a child, I would be ashamed to set down a single word on his account; he deserves the contempt of all honorable men. I will, therefore, not tell infamous truths rather than infamous lies about him.”

 (Vienna, December 22, 1781, to his father, to whose ears Peter Winter, a composer, had brought slanderous reports concerning Mozart and his Constanze. Winter was a pupil of Abbe Vogler. See No. 66.)

143.     “He is a nice fellow and a good friend of mine; I might often dine with him, but it is a custom with me never to take pay for my favors; nor would a dish of soup pay them. Yet such people have wonderful notions of what they accomplish with one....I am fond of doing favors for people but they must not plague me. She (the daughter) is not satisfied if I spend two hours every day with her, but wants me to loll about the whole day; yet she tries to play the well behaved one.”

 (Vienna, August 22, 1781, to his father. Mozart is writing about a landlord and his daughter concerning whom favorable reports had reached the ears of the father. Mozart explains matters and soon thereafter announces a change of lodgings.)

144.     “I beg of you that when you write to me about something in my conduct which is displeasing to you, and I in turn give you my views, let it always be a matter between father and son, and therefore a secret not to be divulged to others. Let our letters suffice and do not address yourself to others, for, by heaven, I will not give a finger’s length of accounting concerning my doings or omissions to others, not even to the Emperor himself. I have cares and anxieties of my own and have no use for petulant letters.”

 (Vienna, September 5, 1781, to his father, who lent a willing ear to gossips and was never chary of his reproaches. Mozart was already twenty-five years old.)

145.     “If I were Wiedmer I would demand the following satisfaction from the Emperor: he should endure 50 strokes at the same place in my presence and then he should pay me 6,000 ducats. If I could not obtain this satisfaction I should take none, but thrust a dagger through his heart at the first opportunity. N.B. He has already had an offer of 3,000 ducats on condition that he does not come to Vienna, but permits the matter to drop. The people of Innsbruck say of Wiedmer: he who was scourged for our sake will also redeem us.”

 (Vienna, August 8, 1781, to his father. Herr von Wiedmer was a nobleman and theatre director, who, without cause, had been sentenced to a whipping by the president, Count Wolkenstein, on the complaint of another nobleman. [Mozart’s bloodthirstiness was probably due to memories of Arco’s kick still rankling in his heart. It was only after long solicitation from his father that he abandoned his plan to send Arco the threatened letter. H.E.K.])

146.     “You perhaps already know that the musico Marquesi—Marquesius di Milano—was poisoned in Naples; but how! He was in love with a duchess and her real amant grew jealous and sent three or four bravos to Marquesi and left him the choice of drinking poison or being massacred. He chose the poison. Being a timid Italian he died alone and left his gentlemen murderers to live in rest and peace. Had they come into my room, I would have taken a few of them with me into the other world, as long as some one had to die. Pity for so excellent a singer!”

(Munich, December 30, 1780, to his father. Mozart, on the whole, was one of the most peaceable men on earth, but he was not wanting in personal courage, and he could fly into transports of rage.)

147.     “If you were to write also to Prince Zeil I should be glad. But short and good. Do not by any means crawl! That I can not endure.”

(Mannheim, December 10, 1777, to his father. Count Ferdinand von Zeil was Prince Bishop of Chimsee and favorably disposed towards Mozart, who was hoping for an appointment in Munich. “If he wants to do something he can; all Munich told me that.” Nothing came of it.)

148.     “Whoever judges me by such bagatelles is also a scamp!”

 (Mozart wrote many occasional pieces for his friends,--fitting them to the players’ capacities. Mozart said that the publisher who bought some of these “bagatelles” and printed them without applying to him was a scamp (Lump), but took no proceedings against him.)

149.     “Very well; then I shall earn nothing more, go hungry and the devil a bit will I care!”

 (Mozart’s answer to Hofmeister, the Leipsic publisher, who had said: “Write in a more popular style or I can neither print nor pay for anything of yours.”)





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