1. TO SISTER OTTILIE (1)

LEIPZIG, the 3rd March (1832).

MY DEAR GOOD OTTILIE—So it is my turn at last to send a few lines to your far-away Denmark, after not having seen you for so long that it has become a positive need to me to have another talk with you, at least on paper. But really there's so much I should like to tell you of the year gone by, such a decisive one for me, that I fear this sheet of paper would never hold it; so I must just make shift with what lies nearest to my heart.

How much it grieved me, that I was unable to take leave of you when you made your departure from here! That is the chief sorrow that has befallen me in your entire absence, and I felt quite mopish when I stayed in the same hotel at Culm where, (2) Mother told me, you bade your last farewell. However, I suppose it won't be much longer before I see you once more ; for, no matter how you may be enjoying yourself at present, I do hope you will also be longing to get back to us some day, if you sympathise with us else.

And now let me narrate you a little bit about myself; which perhaps will be just what you would like, since you shewed such great concern about me in one of your last letters.

Ah, how it grieves me to have to tell you that I, no doubt, was quite unruly for a while, and had been so turned from my goal through keeping company with students, that it caused dear Mother very much anxiety and pain. But I pulled myself together in the end, and have now been so confirmed in my improvement by my new teacher, that already I stand on a point whence I may view my higher course of life as firmly entered. For you must know that for over the past half-year I have been the pupil of our Cantor Weinlig, whom one may rightly call the greatest contrapuntist now alive; added to which, he's such an excellent man that I'm as fond of him as of a father. He has brought me on with such affection that, to employ his own expression, I may already regard my 'prenticeship as ended, and now he simply stands towards me as advising friend. How fond he is of me himself, you may judge by this: when Mother asked him to name his fee, after half a year's tuition, he said it would be unreasonable of him to accept payment for the delight of having taught me, my industry and his hopes of me were quite enough reward.

Well, you may easily imagine that all this has borne fruit. Last Christmas an overture of mine was performed at the theatre, (3) and actually one at the Grand concert last week; (4) and I would have you know that this latter is no trifle, since before anything is accepted for these concerts from a young composer, his work must be found worthy by all the connoisseurs on the committee; so my overture's acceptance in itself may prove to you there s something in it. But I now must tell you about the evening of performance, of such moment to me, for sure. Rosalie and Luise [eldest and next eldest sisters] were present. In no case could I expect anything like a rousing success, as in the first place overtures are seldom applauded at these concerts, and in the second, two new overtures by MARSCHNER and LINDPAINTNER had been given a short time previously without setting a single hand in motion ;—nevertheless my suspense was tremendous, and I almost fainted for fright (oh, had you only been there !). So you may guess my joyful surprise when, at my overture's finish, the whole roomful began to applaud just as if they had been hearing the greatest masterpiece I hardly knew how to contain myself—I can assure you !— and Luise was so affected by it, that she wept. How I did wish you had been present; I'm certain it would have given you a little pleasure too!

Enough of that. Now for another piece of news : a pianoforte sonata of mine, dedicated to my Weinlig, has appeared in print this week; I received a 20 thaler note for it. I would gladly forward you a copy, if I didn't reflect that the carriage would almost exceed the price you can get it for in Copenhagen yourself; so just go to any music-shop and order it from Leipzig, under the title: "Sonata for the pianoforte by Richard Wagner, op. I, Breitkopf und Haertel, Leipzig." It isn't very hard, but in case you can't play it yourself straight away, just ask Fräulein Lottchen, in my name, to play it to you ;—I should be so delighted if it pleased you. Quite recently also [Feb. 3] I composed an overture to König Enzio, a new tragedy by Raupach, which is performed at the theatre each time the piece is played ; it pleases every one.

And now no more about my products; as soon as you are back among us, it will give me infinite joy, my dear sister, to shew you everything.

The 21st March.

See what a time I have been without ending my letter! Meanwhile we have received your last, and as Rosalie herself is answering it, and these lines will be a mere enclosure, it would be needless to present you with our news when Rosalie's letter is sure to tell you quite enough about us all.

How particularly delighted I was to see by your last letter that you are getting a regular longing to be back with us ; it is certain to expedite your journey home. O come right soon, that when Rosalie departs [for Prague] I may not be left with no one who is kin to me through music also! For which matter, during the break in this letter I've written yet another overture, (5) which I am going to conduct at the Musical Union [Euterpe] myself; perhaps I may manage to promote it to the Grand Concerts as well. Good goodness, there I go starting again about my compositions; to put a stop to that old song, I shall wind up this letter at once. The only thing I'll add to my farewell is: Don't stay away much longer, and God grant that when you do return, you may have kept me thoroughly at heart. Enjoy your final days in Copenhagen as you may, I am sure you will like being here again. Adieu, Adieu. Thy RICHARD W.

[Between this and the next letter young Richard, still a minor, has made his first launch on the world, starting in January 1833 to join his eldest brother, Albert—singer, actor, and stage-manager—at Wurzburg; where he soon obtained the post of operatic Chorus-master, and presently commenced his first completed opera, Die Feen.—TR.]


(1) Two years Richard's senior, Ottilie had formed an intimacy with charlotte, daughter of the Danish poet, Adam Oehlenschläger, and was now at the latter's home in Copenhagen on a visit which already had lasted something like nine months.—TR.

(2) A little place between Dresden and Teplitz where the mother was wont to take a course of baths each summer; presumably Ottilie accompanied her, and started thence for Denmark..—TR.

(3) This work's identity is a little difficult to establish at present.—TR. 

(4) That is to say, one of the regular subscription-concerts at the Gewandhaus. The concert taking place Feb. 23, 1832, this overture was manifestly that in D minor, composed Sept. 26, and revised Nov. 4, 1831.—TR.

(5) C major with closing fugue, terminally dated "Leipzig, 17 März 1832"; performed also the 30th of the ensuing April at an "extraneous" concert in he Gewandhaus.—TR.