summit of his fame was reached when his 7th symphony was performed, together with a hastily-written cantata, Der glorreiche Augenblick and the blazing piece of descriptive fireworks entitled Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria, once popular in England as the Battle Symphony. The occasion for this performance was the congress of Vienna; and the government placed the two halls of the Redouten-Saal at his disposal for two nights, while he himself was allowed to invite all the sovereigns of Europe. In the same year he received the freedom of the city, an honour much valued by him. After that time his immediate popularity, as far as new works were concerned, became less eminent, as that of his more easy-going contemporaries began to increase. Yet there was, not only in the emotional power of his earlier works, but also in the known cause of his increasing inability to appear in public, something that awakened the best popular sensibilities; and when his two greatest and most difficult works, the 9th symphony and parts of the Missa Solemnis, were produced at a memorable concert in 1824, the storm of applause was overwhelming, and the composer, who was on the platform in order to give the time to the conductor, had to be turned round by one of the singers in order to see it.
Signs of deafness had given him grave anxiety as early as 1708. For a long time he successfully concealed it from all but his most intimate friends, while he consulted physicians and quacks with eagerness; but neither quackery nor the best skill of his time availed him, and it has been pointed out that the root of the evil lay deeper than could have been supposed during his lifetime. Although his constitution was magnificently strong and his health was preserved by his passion for outdoor life, a post-mortem examination revealed a very complicated state of disorder, evidently dating almost from childhood (if not inherited) and aggravated by lack of care and good food. The touching document addressed to his brothers in 1802, and known as his “will,” should be read in its entirety, as given by Thayer (iv. 4). No verbal quotation short of the whole will do justice to the overpowering outburst which runs almost in one long unpunctuated sentence through the whole tragedy of Beethoven’s life, as he knew it then and foresaw it. He reproaches men for their injustice in thinking and calling him pugnacious, stubborn and misanthropical when they do not know that for six years he has suffered from an incurable condition, aggravated by incompetent doctors. He dwells upon his delight in human society, from which he has had so early to isolate himself, but the thought of which now fills him with dread as it makes him realize his loss, not only in music but in all finer interchange of ideas, and terrifies him lest the cause of his distress should appear. He declares that, when those near him had heard a flute or a singing shepherd while he heard nothing, he was only prevented from taking his life by the thought of his art, but it seemed impossible for him to leave the world until he had brought out all that he felt to be in his power. He requests that after his death his present doctor, if surviving, shall be asked to describe his illness and to append it to this document in order that at least then the world may be as far as possible reconciled with him. He leaves his brothers his property, such as it is, and in terms not less touching, if more conventional than the rest of the document, he declares that his experience shows that only virtue has preserved his life and his courage through all his misery.
And, indeed, his art and his courage rose far above any level attainable by those artists who are slaves to the “personal note,” for his chief occupation at the time of this document was his 2nd symphony, the most brilliant and triumphant piece that had ever been written up to that time. On a smaller scale, in which mastery was the more easily attainable as experiment was more readily tested, Beethoven was sooner able to strike a tragic note, and hence the process of growth in his style is more readily traceable in the pianoforte works than in the larger compositions which naturally represent a series of crowning results. Only in his last period does the pianoforte cease to be Beethoven’s normal means of expression. Accordingly, if in the discussion of Beethoven’s works, with which we close this article, we dwell rather more on the pianoforte sonatas than on his greater works, it is not only because they are more easily referred to by the general reader, but because they are actually a key to his intellectual development, such as is afforded neither by his life nor by the great works which are themselves the crowning mystery and wonder of musical art.
Deafness causes inconvenience in conversation long before it is noticeable in music, and in 1806 Beethoven could still conduct his opera Fidelio and be much annoyed at the inattention to his nuances; and his last appearance as a player was not until 1814, when he made a great impression with his B flat trio, op. 97. At the end of November 1822 an attempt to conduct proved disastrous. The touching incident in 1824 has been described, but up to the last Beethoven seems to have found or imagined that ear-trumpets (of which a collection is now preserved at Bonn) were of use to him in playing to himself, though his friends were often pained when the pianoforte was badly out of tune, and were overcome when Beethoven in soft passages did not make the notes sound at all. The instrument sent him by Broadwood in 1817-1818 gave him great pleasure and he answered it with a characteristically cordial and quaint letter in the best of bad French. His fame in England was often a source of great comfort to him, especially in his last illness, when the London Philharmonic Society, for which the 9th symphony was written and a 10th symphony projected, sent him £100 in advance of the proceeds of a benefit concert which he had begged them to give, being in very straitened circumstances, as he would make no use of the money he had deposited in the bank for his nephew.
This nephew was the cause of most of his anxiety and distress in the last twelve years of his life. His brother, Kaspar Karl, had often given him trouble; for example, by obtaining and publishing some of Beethoven’s early indiscretions, such as the trio-variations, op. 44, the sonatas, op. 49, and other trifles, of which the late opus number is thus explained. In 1815, after Beethoven had quarrelled with his oldest friend, Stephan Breuning, for warning him against trusting his brother in money matters, Kaspar died, leaving a widow of whom Beethoven strongly disapproved, and a son, nine years old, for the guardianship of whom Beethoven fought the widow through all the law courts. The boy turned out utterly unworthy of his uncle’s persistent devotion, and gave him every cause for anxiety. He failed in all his examinations, including an attempt to learn some trade in the polytechnic school, whereupon he fell into the hands of the police for attempting suicide, and, after being expelled from Vienna, joined the army. Beethoven’s utterly simple nature could neither educate nor understand a human being who was not possessed by the wish to do his best. His nature was passionately affectionate, and he had suffered all his life from the want of a natural outlet for it. He had often been deeply in love and made no secret of it; but Robert Browning had not a more intense dislike of “the artistic temperament” in morals, and though Beethoven’s attachments were almost all hopelessly above him in rank, there is not one that was not honourable and respected by society as showing the truthfulness and self-control of a great man. Beethoven’s orthodoxy in such matters has provoked the smiles of Philistines, especially when it showed itself in his objections to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and his grounds for selecting the subject of Fidelio for his own opera. The last thing that Philistines will ever understand is that genius is far too independent of convention to abuse it; and Beethoven’s life, with all its mistakes, its grotesqueness and its pathos, is as far beyond the shafts of Philistine wit as his art.
At the beginning of 1827 Beethoven had projects for a 10th symphony, music to Goethe’s Faust, and (under the stimulus of his newly acquired collection of Handel’s works) any amount of choral music, compared to which all his previous compositions would have seemed but a prelude. But he was in bad health; his brother Johann, with whom he had been staying, had not allowed him a fire in his bedroom, and had sent him back to Vienna in an open chaise in vile weather; and the chill which resulted ended in a fatal illness. Within a week of his death