06 February 2015

Lovers: Beethoven and his Immortal Beloved

By Ginger Myrick

Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the most prolific composers of his time, and his music remains relevant today. Most of us are familiar with those moving musical works from Für Elise and Moonlight Sonata to his symphonies, which are nine in number and the basis for many a religious hymn. As with any form of creative expression there are detractors from his genius, but whoever listens to the music, whether he likes it or not, would agree that it was written with an abounding passion. And it would seem that Beethoven’s zeal was not confined to musical composition. He is also known in a lesser capacity as a writer of love letters.
Beethoven as a young man by Carl Traugott Riedel
Although destined for greatness, Beethoven was plagued by hardship his entire life, and it seemed this ill-fortune also extended to affairs of the heart. As a young man he was reported to have been officially in love twice, and though his affections were reciprocated on both occasions, his proposals were subsequently rejected due to class issues. But an ardent nature will not be tamed, and where the ladies were concerned, the fiery musician continued to follow his heart, unheeding of those early repudiations.
Along with numerous theories about the identity of his ‘Immortal Beloved’, there is also speculation about the actual date of the correspondence. The letters are dated July 6 and 7, but for some reason the year was omitted. This has bearing on the issue because, not only would Beethoven have been at different stages of his life during the possible years, he would also have been in different locations, exposed to different sets of associates, etc. For the sake of brevity, I have chosen the most commonly cited scenario: the summer of 1812 when, at 42 years of age, Beethoven was ordered by his doctor to the Czech spa town of Teplitz in an attempt to restore his declining health. This was where he is believed to have set forth his praise of one lucky female and made his mark in the annals of romance.
As the composer had never married and was not known to be openly courting an inamorata at the time, the intended recipient of these flowery declarations of love is a mystery that has not been solved even after 200+ years of investigation by Beethoven scholars. Despite his reputation as an irascible bachelor with a difficult personality—or perhaps because of it—he was something of a ladies’ man. As women made up the bulk of his piano students and general admirers of his genius, he was deep in female company for the entirety of his life. In fact, his Moonlight Sonata is dedicated to one of these early students, a young Italian countess named Giulietta Guicciardi. With such a passionate temperament, Beethoven suffered many such infatuations—too many, in fact, to list here—and no one can say with any certainty who was the subject of his famous missive.
The writings themselves really offer no further clues, either. Much of the letters are filled with mundane events and boring news of his travel, and aside from fretting over the postman’s schedule, Beethoven never mentions any place names that might pinpoint a location and help identify the woman. And although he is very clearly smitten—referring to his lady friend as “my angel”, “my only treasure”, “my most precious one”—he never calls her by name. But this intrigue only adds to the fascination surrounding the affair.
Beethoven at age 50 by Joseph Karl Stieler
Obscure tangents aside, some of the lines are exceedingly romantic with the capacity to send a woman’s heart soaring in flights of fancy as effectively as his soul-stirring sonatas. I have taken the liberty of sharing my favorite passages. Keep in mind that the following was not all set forth in one brilliant flash of transcription. That said, it is still quite dazzling!

My angel, my all, my very self: Only a few words today and at that with pencil (with yours) …”
“Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether Fate will hear us – I can live only wholly with you or wholly apart from you.  I have decided to wander far away until I can fly to your arms and say that with you I have found my true home, can send my soul enwrapped in you into the realm of spirits.”
“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 …”
“No other can ever possess my heart -- never -- never.  O God! why must one be separated from one so beloved?” 
“Farewell!  Continue to love me; never misjudge the most faithful heart of
Your beloved

Ever yours
Ever mine

Ever ours”
Adding to the mystery is the fact that the letters were ultimately found in Beethoven’s possession. They were only discovered upon his death fifteen years later in 1827 when his intimates were sorting through his personal effects. Despite his professions of eternal devotion and obvious desire to spend his life with his “Immortal Beloved”, he never achieved their union and died a confirmed bachelor.
Had he never sent the letters? Or had he dared to proclaim his love only to be spurned, yet again, and the evidence returned to him? We may never know. The mystery surrounding Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved persists today and perhaps will never be solved.



Ginger Myrick was born and raised in Southern California. She is a self-described wife, mother, animal lover, and avid reader. Along with the promotion for BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD, WORK OF ART, THE WELSH HEALEREL REY, and INSATIABLE, she is currently working on novel #6. A Christian who writes meticulously researched historical fiction with a ‘clean’ love story at the core, she hopes to show the reading community that a romance need not include graphic details to convey deep love and passion. Look for Insatiable: A Macabre History of France ~ L’Amour: Marie Antoinette live now at Amazon!

2 comments:

Unknown said...

What an interesting post! I'm besotted with Beethoven. Have you read Jan Swafford's Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph?

I'm so pleased you wrote this. I loved it.

Ian lipke
ian.lipke@gmail.com

Ginger Myrick said...

Wow! Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, but thanks, Ian! I haven't read Anguish and Triumph, but it is now on my ever growing TBR. ;)