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- My Life, Volume I - 60/107 -


also pointed out energetically and prudently the practical side of the matter, impressing on me the duty of thinking of my wife, who would, in case of my death, be sufficiently provided for if I accepted the post.

The promptings of affection, prudence and good sense, however, had less weight with me than the enthusiastic conviction, never at any period of my life entirely destroyed, that wherever fate led me, whether to Dresden or elsewhere, I should find the opportunity which would convert my dreams into reality through currents set in motion by some change in the everyday order of events. All that was needed for this was the advent of an ardent and aspiring soul who, with good luck to back him, might make up for lost time, and by his ennobling influence achieve the deliverance of art from her shameful bonds. The wonderful and rapid change which had taken place in my fortunes could not fail to encourage such a hope, and I was seduced on perceiving the marked alteration that had taken place in the whole attitude of Luttichau, the general director, towards me. This strange individual showed me a kindliness of which no one would hitherto have thought him capable, and that he was prompted by a genuine feeling of personal benevolence towards me I could not help being absolutely convinced, even at the time of my subsequent ceaseless differences with him.

Nevertheless, the decision came as a kind of surprise. On 2nd February 1843 I was very politely invited to the director's office, and there met the general staff of the royal orchestra, in whose presence Luttichau, through the medium of my never-to- be-forgotten friend Winkler, solemnly read out to me a royal rescript appointing me forthwith conductor to his Majesty, with a life salary of four thousand five hundred marks a year. Luttichau followed the reading of this document by a more or less ceremonious speech, in which he assumed that I should gratefully accept the King's favour. At this polite ceremony it did not escape my notice that all possibility of future negotiations over the figure of the salary was cut off; on the other hand, a substantial exemption in my favour, the omission of the condition, enforced even on Weber in his time, of serving a year's probation under the title of mere musical director, was calculated to secure my unconditional acceptance. My new colleagues congratulated me, and Luttichau accompanied me with the politest phrases to my own door, where I fell into the arms of my poor wife, who was giddy with delight. Therefore I fully realised that I must put the best face I could on the matter, and unless I wished to give unheard-of offence, I must even congratulate myself on my appointment as royal conductor.

A few days after taking the oath as a servant of the King in solemn session, and undergoing the ceremony of presentation to the assembled orchestra by means of an enthusiastic speech from the general director, I was summoned to an audience with his Majesty. When I saw the features of the kind, courteous, and homely monarch, I involuntarily thought of my youthful attempt at a political overture on the theme of Friedrich und Freiheit. Our somewhat embarrassed conversation brightened with the King's expression of his satisfaction with those two of my operas which had been performed in Dresden. He expressed with polite hesitation his feeling that if my operas left anything to be desired, it was a clearer definition of the various characters in my musical dramas. He thought the interest in the persons was overpowered by the elemental forces figuring beside them--in Hienzi the mob, in the Fliegender Hollander the sea. I thought I understood his meaning perfectly, and this proof of his sincere sympathy and original judgment pleased me very much. He also made his excuses in advance for a possible rare attendance at my operas on his part, his sole reason for this being that he had a peculiar aversion from theatre-going, as the result of one of the rules of his early training, under which he and his brother John, who had acquired a similar aversion, were for a long time compelled regularly to attend the theatre, when he, to tell the truth, would often have preferred to be left alone to follow his own pursuits independent of etiquette.

As a characteristic instance of the courtier spirit, I afterwards learned that Luttichau, who had had to wait for me in the anteroom during this audience, had been very much put out by its long duration. In the whole course of my life I was only admitted twice more to personal intercourse and speech with the good King. The first occasion was when I presented him with the dedication copy of the pianoforte score of my Rienzi; and the second was after my very successful arrangement and performance of the Iphigenia in Aulis, by Gluck, of whose operas he was particularly fond, when he stopped me in the public promenade and congratulated me on my work.

That first audience with the King marked the zenith of my hastily adopted career at Dresden; thenceforward anxiety reasserted itself in manifold ways. I very quickly realised the difficulties of my material situation, since it soon became evident that the advantage won by new exertions and my present appointment bore no proportion to the heavy sacrifices and obligations which I incurred as soon as I entered on an independent career. The young musical director of Riga, long since forgotten, suddenly reappeared in an astonishing reincarnation as royal conductor to the King of Saxony. The first-fruits of the universal estimate of my good fortune took the shape of pressing creditors and threats of prosecution; next followed demands from the Konigsberg tradesmen, from whom I had escaped from Riga by means of that horribly wretched and miserable flight. I also heard from people in the most distant parts, who thought they had some claim on me, dating even from my student, nay, my school days, until at last I cried out in my astonishment that I expected to receive a bill next from the nurse who had suckled me. All this did not amount to any very large sum, and I merely mention it because of the ill-natured rumours which, I learned years later, had been spread abroad about the extent of my debts at that time. Out of three thousand marks, borrowed at interest from Schroder-Devrient, I not only paid these debts, but also fully compensated the sacrifices which Kietz had made on my behalf, without ever expecting any return, in the days of my poverty in Paris. I was, moreover, able to be of practical use to him. But where was I to find even this sum, as my distress had hitherto been so great that I was obliged to urge Schroder-Devrient to hurry on the rehearsals of the Fliegender Hollander by pointing out to her the enormous importance to me of the fee for the performance? I had no allowance for the expenses of my establishment in Dresden, though it had to be suitable for my position as royal conductor, nor even for the purchase of a ridiculous and expensive court uniform, so that there would have been no possibility of my making a start at all, as I had no private means, unless I borrowed money at interest.

But no one who knew of the extraordinary success of Rienzi at Dresden could help believing in an immediate and remunerative rage for my operas on the German stage. My own relatives, even the prudent Ottilie, were so convinced of it that they thought I might safely count on at least doubling my salary by the receipts from my operas. At the very beginning the prospects did indeed seem bright; the score of my Fliegender Hollander was ordered by the Royal Theatre at Cassel and by the Riga theatre, which I had known so well in the old days, because they were anxious to perform something of mine at an early date, and had heard that this opera was on a smaller scale, and made smaller demands on the stage management, than Rienzi. In May, 1843 I heard good reports of the success of the performances from both those places. But this was all for the time being, and a whole year went by without the smallest inquiry for any of my scores. An attempt was made to secure me some benefit by the publication of the pianoforte score of the Fliegender Hollander, as I wanted to reserve Rienzi, after the successes it had gained, as useful capital for a more favourable opportunity; but the plan was spoilt by the opposition of Messrs. Hartel of Leipzig, who, although ready enough to publish my opera, would only do so on the condition that I abstained from asking any payment for it.

So I had, for the present, to content myself with the moral satisfaction of my successes, of which my unmistakable popularity with the Dresden public, and the respect and attention paid to me, formed part. But even in this respect my Utopian dreams were destined to be disturbed. I think that my appearance at Dresden marked the beginning of a new era in journalism and criticism, which found food for its hitherto but slightly developed vitality in its vexation at my success. The two gentlemen I have already mentioned, C. Bank and J. Schladebach, had, as I now know, first taken up their regular abode in Dresden at that time; I know that when difficulties were raised about the permanence of Bank's appointment, they were waived, owing to the testimonials and recommendation of my present colleague Reissiger. The success of my Rienzi had been the source of great annoyance to these gentlemen, who were now established as musical critics to the Dresden press, because I made no effort to win their favour; they were not ill-pleased, therefore, to find an opportunity of pouring out the vitriol of their hatred over the universally popular young musician who had won the sympathy of the kindly public, partly on account of the poverty and ill-luck which had hitherto been his lot. The need for any kind of human consideration had suddenly vanished with my 'unheard-of' appointment to the royal conductorship. Now 'all was well with me,' 'too well,' in fact; and envy found its congenial food; this provided a perfectly clear and comprehensible point of attack; and soon there spread through the German press, in the columns given to Dresden news, an estimate of me which has never fundamentally changed, except in one point, to this day. This single modification, which was purely temporary and confined to papers of one political colour, occurred on my first settlement as a political refugee in Switzerland, but lasted only until, through Liszt's exertions, my operas began to be produced all over Germany, in spite of my exile. The orders from two theatres, immediately after the Dresden performance, for one of my scores, were merely due to the fact that up to that time the activity of my journalistic critics was still limited. I put down the cessation of all inquiries, certainly not without due justification, mainly to the effect of the false and calumnious reports in the papers.

My old friend Laube tried, indeed, to undertake my defence in the press. On New Year's Day, 1843 he resumed the editorship of the Zeitung fur die Elegante Welt, and asked me to provide him with a biographical notice of myself for the first number. It evidently gave him great pleasure to present me thus in triumph to the literary world, and in order to give the subject more prominence he added a supplement to that number in the shape of a lithograph reproduction of my portrait by Kietz. But after a time even he became anxious and confused in his judgment of my works, when he saw the systematic and increasingly virulent detraction, depreciation, and scorn to which they were subjected. He confessed to me later that he had never imagined such a desperate position as mine against the united forces of journalism could possibly exist, and when he heard my view of the question, he


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