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A Disturbing, Chaotic Life


After a heavy bombardment, Vienna had fallen to Napoleon’s army on May 10,1809, and life became difficult for the city’s residents. In a letter to Leipzig publisher Breitkopf and Hertel, Beethoven wrote on July 26:

You are quite wrong to assume that things have been going well for me. The truth is, we’ve passed through a heavy concentration of misery. Since the fourth of May I’ve produced very little coherent work, no more than a fragment here and there. The entire course of events has affected me body and soul. Nor can I give myself over to the enjoyment of country life, which is so crucial for me. My position, only recently attained, rests on a shaky foundation. Even in the short time I’ve had it, not all of the promises made to me have been kept. From one of my patrons, Prince Kinsky, I have yet to receive a single farthing, just at a time when the money is most necessary.

Heaven only knows what’s going to happen. I’ll probably have to change my residence. The confiscations are to begin today.

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What a disturbing, chaotic life I see all around me–nothing but drums, cannons, and human misery of all kinds. My present situation again forces me to bargain with you. So I am inclined to think that you could surely send me 250 gulden at the current rate for the three major works. Be assured that by no means do I consider this an excessive sum, and right now I really need it because I can’t count on what was promised me in my certificate of appointment. So write to me and let me know if you will accept this offer. For the Mass alone I could get a fee of 100 gulden at the current rate.

You know that in matters of this kind I’m always forthright with you.