Friday, July 30, 2010

7/30 Advice from the Tagebuch

One of the most interesting of Beethoven's body of writings is his diary, or "Tagebuch". It was written between 1812 and 1818. Sadly the original manuscript is missing, but what we have left are handwritten copies of it by early Beethoven biographers. In it, he jots down proverbs, money lending accounts, shopping lists, favorite passages from poems and plays...nowadays we have these things called blogs instead of diaries. Except that blogs are public of course...

Anyway, here are some sample Tagebuch entries along the lines of "Beethoven's Chicken Soup for the Soul", or maybe "Dear Ludwig"...

(Entries with quotes are not B's own words, but something he is quoting; text in parentheses is my own humble commentary)

5. "Speech is like silver, but to be silent at the right moment is pure gold."

6. "Don't waste time with bad people."

7. The best way not to think of your woes is to keep busy.

10. How should Eleison be pronounced in Greek? E-lei E-le-ison is correct.
(B set it as E-lei-son in the Missa Solemnis)

16. I have to show the English a little of what a blessing "God Save the King" is.
(B wrote 7 Variations (in C major) on 'God save the King' WoO.78)

19. Shoe brushes for polishing when somebody visits.

25. There is much to be done on earth, do it soon!

26. For Fate gave Man the courage to endure to the end.

30. Hatred recoils upon those who harbor it.

32. 7 pairs of boots.

34. Never outwardly show people the contempt they deserve, because one cannot know when one may need them.
(Clearly would not have made it as a blog entry. Can you imagine John Adams writing that on his blog?)

38. 34 bottles of wine from Countess Erdody.

48. Always study from half past 5 until breakfast.
(Extremely dedicated for someone in his mid-40s.)

70. About a library: large books must stand upright and in such a way that one can easily grasp them.

84. Leave aside operas and everything else, write only in your manner.
(In other words, go your own way and to hell with the public demand.)

109. Never again live alone with one servant, it is and remains hazardous; just imagine the situation where the master falls ill and the servant perhaps does too.
(I prohibit my servants from getting ill.)

110. The shortest way to avoid cheating is to order from a particular restaurant.

122. Sensual gratification without a spiritual union is and remains bestial, afterwards one has no trace of noble feeling but rather remorse.
(Not sure how often one should feel 'noble' afterwards, under any circumstances....)

126. Tranquility and freedom are the greatest treasures.

156. A separate rack for Handel.
(I'm assuming he means his bound 1st edition copies of Handel scores and not his CD collection.)

167. Troglodytes = cave-dwellers.

My transcriptions of B's Tagebuch come from Maynard Solomon's "Beethoven Essays" (Harvard). Recommended, at the very least for just for the complete Tagebuch and Mr. Solomon's much more erudite commentary.

(some excerpts from Google books below)

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