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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 71 pages of information about Wagner.
whose position was about as lofty as that of an English country squire, though it must be admitted that his tastes were a little more elevated.  Railways had not defiled the landscapes of Europe, nor gas robbed her cities of all romance by night.  The watchman blew his horn and called the hour, and told all those abed that it rained or snowed.  Most of the blessings of civilization, which were to do so much for humanity and have done so little, had yet to come.  Fair fields and forests, fresh, unpolluted rivers, cities of great-gabled houses, old-world narrow streets and beautiful gardens, and, excepting in England, few noisy smoking factories and foul chemical works—­this was the Europe into which Richard Wagner was born on May 22, 1813.

He was born in Leipzig.  His father, a police official of some vague sort, died when he was a few months old, and his mother went to Dresden and married Ludwig Geyer, an actor.  Richard, however, had no great luck in the matter of fathers, for six years later Geyer also died.  Dresden was, as things were in those days—­ninety years ago—­a fairly musical city; it had Weber at the opera and musicians of various degrees of celebrity, deserved or undeserved.  This, however, cannot have much affected Wagner as a child.  Rather, it is worth while glancing for a moment at the artistic life which went on at his home.  Whatever else it may have been, it was not specially musical.  Geyer was an actor, Wagner’s sister became an actress, and the atmosphere of the theatre must have pervaded the family circle.  This accounts somewhat for Wagner’s earlier artistic attempts.  He showed none of the preternatural musical precocity of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, who in their very cradles were steeped in music.  While his musical powers lay a long time latent, his thoughts and energies were from babyhood directed to the theatre.  At the age of ten he probably knew a great deal more about the drama of the day than he did of its music; probably he knew better when a play was well represented than when a symphony was well played.  Yet, while his theatrical tendencies were encouraged, he must have been far from being indifferent to music.  He realized that Weber was a very great man, and used to watch him passing in the street.  This is significant, for Weber remained to him throughout his life as a demigod; from Die Feen, his boyish opera, until after Lohengrin he used freely the Weber phraseology and melodic contours, and when Weber’s remains were transported from London to be reinterred in Germany it was Wagner who pronounced the inevitable discourse.

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