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The Guardian


By May of 1816 Ludwig van Beethoven was the guardian of two concerns–his music and his nephew, and he wrote about both in a letter from Vienna to Charles Neate in London:

Mr. Ries informed me of your plan to give a concert for my benefit. For such a triumph of my art in London I would be beholden to you alone. But an even healthier influence upon my practically destitute life would be to have the profits generated by the undertaking. You know that in a sense I am now a father to the handsome boy you saw with me. It’s all I can do to live alone for three months on my annual salary and now there’s the added load of supporting a poor orphan. You can imagine how much I would welcome any legal way to improve my situation.

As for the Quartet in F minor, you may sell it to a publisher right away and indicate the date of publication because I’d like for it to come out here on the same day. Feel free to do the same with the two sonatas, Opus 102, for pianoforte and violoncello, but there’s no hurry.

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I leave it completely up to you to determine my reward for the quartet and the sonatas. The more the better.

Please write to me at once for two reasons: so that I don’t have to shrug when I’m asked if I’ve gotten letters from you and so that I can know how you’re doing and if I’m still in your good graces. Answer me in English if you can give me happy news (for example, about a concert in my benefit) and in French if the news is bad.

Maybe you can find some music lover to whom the trio and the sonata with the violin or the symphony arranged for the harpsichord might be dedicated, and from whom one might expect a gift.