He had borne privation, hunger, cold, wet beds to sleep in, with the inveterate cheeriness that never left him. He worked on steadily until his old age in the service he now entered—that of Prince Anton Esterhazy. Until the year 1791, when he adventured far away for the first time to come to London, his outward life was as regular and uneventful as that of a steady Somerset House clerk. There is next to nothing to record, and I will spare the patient reader the usual stock of fabulous anecdotes, the product of hearsay and loose imaginations. Let us turn for a moment to what he had learnt and actually achieved during the first thirty years of his life.
THE EARLY MUSIC
Save one quartet, I have heard none of the compositions of Haydn’s first period. Their interest is mainly historical, and the public cannot be blamed for never evincing the slightest desire to hear them. Haydn had, indeed, a glimmering of the new idea—perhaps more than a glimmering; but, on the whole, he was still in leading strings, and dared not follow the gleam. It is not surprising. He was not one of Nature’s giant eruptive forces, like Beethoven. His declared object always was to please his patrons; and consider who his patrons were. We may be sure that the “discords” of a Beethoven suddenly blared forth would have scared Count Morzin and all his pigtail court. Haydn was supposed to write the same kind of music as other musicians of the period were writing, and, if possible, to do it better; Count Morzin did not pay him to widen the horizons of an art. Consider his musical position also. He was born twenty-seven years before the death of Handel, eighteen before that of the greatest Bach; Bach was writing gigantic works in the contrapuntal style and forms; Handel had not composed the chain of oratorios on which his fame rests. It is conceivable that had Haydn been born in less humble circumstances, that had he easily reached a high position, he, too, might have commenced writing fugues, masses and oratorios on a big scale—and be utterly forgotten to-day. His good luck thrust him into a lowly post, and by developing the forms in which he had to compose, and seeking out their possibilities, he became a great and original man.