Great Italian and French Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 197 pages of information about Great Italian and French Composers.

Miss Smithson was speedily involved in great pecuniary difficulty, and, to add to her misfortunes, she fell down stairs and broke her leg, thus precluding her own appearance on the stage.  Affairs were in this desperate condition, when Berlioz came to the fore with a delicate and manly chivalry worthy of the highest praise.  He offered to pay Miss Smithson’s debts, though a poor man himself, and to marry her without delay.  The ceremony took place immediately, and thus commenced a connection which hampered and retarded Berlioz’s career, as well as caused him no little personal unhappiness.  He speedily discovered that his wife was a woman of fretful, imperious temper, jealous of mere shadows (though Berlioz was a man to give her substantial cause), and totally lacking in sympathy writh his high-art ideals.

When Mme. Berlioz recovered, it was to find herself unable longer to act, as her leg was stiff and her movements unsuited to the exigencies of the stage.  Poor Berlioz was crushed by the weight of the obligations he had assumed, and, as the years went on, the peevish plaints of an invalid wife, who had lost her beauty and power of charming, withered the affection which had once been so fervid and passionate.  Berlioz finally separated from his once beautiful and worshiped Harriet Smithson, but to the very last supplied her wants as fully as he could out of the meager earnings of his literary work and of musical compositions, which the Paris public, for the most part, did not care to listen to.  For his son, Louis, the only offspring of this union, Berlioz felt a devoted affection, and his loss at sea in after-years was a blow that nearly broke his heart.

IV.

Owing to the unrelenting hostility of Cherubini, Berlioz failed to secure a professorship at the Conservatoire, a place to which he was nobly entitled, and was fain to take up with the position of librarian instead.  The paltry wage he eked out by journalistic writing, for the most part as musical critic of the “Journal des Debats,” by occasional concerts, revising proofs, in a word anything which a versatile and desperate Bohemian could turn his hand to.  In fact, for many years the main subsistence of Berlioz was derived from feuilleton-writing and the labors of a critic.  His prose is so witty, brilliant, fresh, and epigrammatic that he would have been known to posterity as a clever litterateur, had he not preferred to remain merely a great musician.  Dramatic, picturesque, and subtile, with an admirable sense of art-form, he could have become a powerful dramatist, perhaps a great novelist.  But his soul, all whose aspirations set toward one goal, revolted from the labors of literature, still more from the daily grind of journalistic drudgery.  In that remarkable book, “Memoires de Hector Berlioz,” he has made known his misery, and thus recounts one of his experiences:  “I stood at the window gazing into the gardens, at the

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Great Italian and French Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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