On Miss Mussel’s last trip to London, she had the good fortune to discover a used bookshop in South Ken with a basement full of treasure. After spending an hour or so considering various volumes of poetry and history, the prize find came into view. Letters To Beethoven & Other Correspondence (T Albrecht, ed) was perched unassumingly on the very bottom shelf, all three volumes brand new and more than likely unread. At Â£20 for the set, really how could one go wrong? To be honest, it would have been criminal to leave them.
The first volume spans 1772-1812 and offers a glimpse into the social services nightmare that appears to have been Beethoven’s childhood. Turns out his father was an alcoholic and the jury is out as to whether he was banished to the country [read: rehab] or went voluntarily. At any rate, by the time the young Beethoven was 19, he felt it necessary to commandeer half of his father’s salary to ensure he could feed his younger brothers.
Bonn; November, 20, 1789
To the Supplication of the Organist L. van Beethoven,
Because His Serene Electoral Highness has graciously granted the request submitted by the supplicant and has henceforth entirely dispensed with the further services of his father, who is to withdraw to a country village in the Electorate of Cologne, it is most indulgently commanded that in the future he be paid, in accordance with his wish, only 100 Reichsthaler of the annual salary that he has received until now, an beginning with the arrival of the new year, that the other 100 Thaler be paid to his supplicating son in addition to the salary he already enjoys, as well as three measures of grain annually, for the upbringing of his brothers.
As the present issue communicated to the longtime supplicant, the Electoral Court Treasury will make the necessary provisions, and everyone whom it may concern must pay most obedient heed to it.