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Lawrence Gilman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 115 pages of information about Edward MacDowell.
with the outer world this incurable shyness sometimes, as I have said, led him into giving a grotesquely untrue impression of himself:  he was at times gauche, blunt, awkwardly infelicitous in speech or silence, when he would have wished, as he knew perfectly how, to be considerate, gentle, sympathetic, responsive.  On the other hand, his shyness and reticence were seemingly contradicted by a downright bluntness, a deliberate frankness in matters of opinion in which his convictions were involved; for his views were most positively held and his convictions were often passionate in intensity, and he declared them, upon occasion, with an utter absence of diplomacy, compromise, or equivocation; with a superb but sometimes calamitous disregard of his own interests.

[Illustration:  MACDOWELL IN 1892]

Confident and positive to a fault in his adherence to and expression of his principles, he was as morbidly dubious concerning his own performances as he was uneasy under praise.  He was tortured by doubts of the value of each new work that he completed, after the flush and ardour generated in its actual expression had passed; and he listened to open praise of it in evident discomfort.  I have a memory of him on a certain occasion in a private house following a recital at which he had played, almost for the first time, his then newly finished “Keltic” Sonata.  Standing in the center of a crowded room, surrounded by enthusiastically effusive strangers who were voluble—­and not overpenetrating—­in their expressions of appreciation, he presented a picture of unhappiness, of mingled helplessness and discomfort, which was almost pathetic in its genuineness of woe.  I was standing near him, and during a momentary lull in the amiable siege of which he was the distressed object, he whispered tragically to me:  “Can’t we get out of this?—­Do you know the way to the back door?” I said I did, and led him through an inconspicuous doorway into a comparatively deserted corridor behind the staircase.  I procured for him, through the strategic employment of a passing servant, something to eat, and we staid in concealment there until the function had come to an end, and his wife had begun to search for him.  He was quite happy, consuming his salad and beer behind the stairs and telling me in detail his conception of certain of the figures of Celtic mythology which he had had in mind while composing his sonata.

To visitors at his house in Peterboro, he said one morning, on leaving them, “I am going to the cabin to write some of my rotten melodies!” He was sincerely distrustful concerning the worth of any composition which he had finished; especially so, of course, concerning his more youthful performances.  He once sent a frantic telegram to Teresa Carreno, upon learning from an announcement that she was to play his early Concert Etude (op. 36) for the first time:  “Don’t put that dreadful thing on your programme”; and for certain of his more

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