Adam Liszt and his son went to England, and spent about six months in giving concerts in London and other cities. Franz was less than fourteen years old, but the pale, fragile, slender boy had, in the deep melancholy which stamped the noble outline of his face, an appearance of maturity that belied his years. English audiences everywhere received him with admiration, but he seemed to have lost all zest for the intoxicating wine of public favor. A profound gloom stole over him, and we even hear of hints at an attempt to commit suicide. Adam Liszt attributed it to the sad English climate, which Hein-rich Heine cursed with such unlimited bitterness, and took his boy back again to sunnier France. But the dejection darkened and deepened, threatening even to pass into epilepsy. It assumed the form of religious enthusiasm, alternating with fits of remorse as of one who had committed the unpardonable sin, and sometimes expressed itself in a species of frenzy for the monastic life. These strange experiences alarmed the father, and, in obedience to medical advice, he took the ailing, half-hysterical lad to Boulogne-sur-Mer, for sea-bathing.
While by the seaside Franz Liszt lost the father who had loved him with the devotion of father and mother combined. This fresh stroke of affliction deepened his dejection, and finally resulted in a fit of severe illness. When he was convalescent new views of life seemed to inspire him. He was now entirely thrown on his own resources for support, for Adam Liszt had left his affairs so deeply involved that there was but little left for his son and widow. A powerful nature, turned awry by unhealthy broodings, is often rescued from its own mental perversities by the sense of some new responsibility suddenly imposed on it. Boy as Liszt was, the Titan in him had already shown itself in the agonies and struggles which he had undergone, and, now that the necessity of hard work suddenly came, the atmosphere of turmoil and gloom began to clear under the imminent practical burden of life. He set resolutely to work composing and giving concerts. The religious mania under which he had rested for a while turned his thoughts to sacred music, and most of his compositions were masses. But the very effort of responsible toil set, as it were, a background against which he could appoint the true place and dimensions of his art work.