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Beethoven's Will

"[Beethoven] decided, at the age of thirty-one and three-quarters, to write his Last Will and Testament.
This is such an extraordinary document raising questions as well as answering them, that it merits close analysis, indeed for any lover of Beethoven's music who wants to understand him better, the single most important piece of writing he ever produced that is not in the form of musical notes. Here it is in full:

For my brothers -- Carl -- and ~~ Beethoven
Oh all you people who think and say that I am hostile to you, or that I am stubborn, or that I hate mankind, you do not realise the wrong that you do me. You think you understand, but you do not know the secret cause of my seeming that way. From my childhood on, my heart and mind were disposed only towards tenderness and good will. I even knew I was destined to accomplish great deeds. But consider this: for the last six years I have suffered from a terrible condition, made worse by a stupid doctors, yet hoping from one year to the next that it would improve, but finally realising that I'd been deceived, that I would have to face the prospect of a lasting malady (at least that it would take many years to be cured, or even that it might never be). Born with an ardent and lively temperament, from an early age I had to cut myself off from society in all its diversity and lead my own life. And if from time to time I wanted more than anything not to have to do that, oh how hard I had to fight against the dreadful consequences of my poor hearing. And I wasn't yet in a position where I could say to people: speak louder, shout, for I am deaf. Ah, how could I possibly explain that I was deficient in the one sense that should have been more highly developed in me than anyone, a sense I was once in full possession of, to an extent in fact that few of my profession are or ever were? Oh I cannot do it, so forgive me when you see me shrink back, although I really want to mingle with you. My misfortune is doubly bad, because through it people miss judging me. For me there can be no enjoyment in other men's company, no stimulating conversations or exchange of ideas. I must be totally alone, except in cases of the direst emergency. I must live like an exile. If I go near a group of people I am overcome with anxiety, and I am frightened I will be put in a position where my condition will be noticed. And so I was told by my one sensible doctor to spend these few months in the country, to rest my hearing as much as possible. Occasionally - albeit against my natural disposition - I have wished to have company. I have on occasions yielded to the temptation. But what a humiliation when someone next to me heard a flute in the distance and I had nothing, or someone heard the shepherd sing, and again I heard nothing. Such things have brought me near to despair. Only a little more and I would even have ended my life. Only my art, that is all that held me back. It would have been impossible for me to leave this world until I had brought forth everything that was within me, and so I continued to eke out a miserable existence - truly miserable, my condition is so sensitive, that a sudden change of mood could plunge me from happiness into despair - Patience - that is what I must now let guide me, and what I have let guide me - I hope above all that I will be resolute enough to wait until pitiless fate determines to break the thread. Maybe my health will improve, maybe not. Whatever, I am prepared. Ready in my 28 year I was forced to accept my fate, and that was not easy, in fact it is harder for an artist than for anybody. Divine One, you alone can see into my innermost soul. You understand me, you know that I love my fellow men and want only to do good. Oh my friends, when you read this understand that you did me an injustice, and should there exist in the world any man as unfortunate as I, let him comfort himself in the knowledge that, as I have done, he too can accomplish everything that is within his power, and be elevated into the ranks of worthy artists and great men. To you my brothers - Carl - and ~~, as soon as I am dead ask Professor Schmidt in my name, assuming he is still living, to describe my illness to you, and attach this document to my medical history, so that after my death, people might begin to understand just a little about me. Also I declare you both as the heirs to my small fortune (if it can be called that). Divide it fairly, be good friends and help each other. You do that what ever you did against me I have a long since forgiven. You my brother Carl have my special thanks for the proven devotion you have shown me, especially of late. My wish is that you may both have a better for carefree life that I had. Teach your children Virtue, for it alone can bring them happiness, not money, and I speak from experience. It was Virtue that lifted me up when I was wretched. I owe it to Virtue, together with my art, that I did not end my own life. And so farewell and love one another. Thank all my friends, especially Prince Lichnowsky and Professor Schmidt. The instruments Prince L gave me I wish to be kept by one of you. But do not call over them, and if they can be of some use to you, go ahead and sell them. It makes me so happy to know I can help you, even from my grave - if that is to be the case. I would gladly hasten towards my death, and if it should come before I have been able to create all the arts that I am capable of, then even given my harsh fate it will be too soon, and I will wish so much that it had come later - yet I shall still be satisfied, for will it not release me from my endless suffering? Come death when you will, I shall face you with courage. Farewell and forget me not when I am dead, for I deserve to be remembered, just as I so often remembered you during my life, and tried to make you happy: remain so -
Heignlnstadt [sic] Ludwig van Beethoven
On 6th October 1802"

From Beethoven: The Man Revealed by John Suchet. pp95/7. Eliot &Thompson Ltd, London 2012.

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