New letter: Richard Wagner begs a Jew for helpmain
The Joseph Joachim scholar Robert Eschbach has discovered a grovelling letter dated March 1858 from Richard Wagner to the great violinist and friend of Brahms, requesting him to fix him up with an income from the King of Hanover.
This letter is written in the decade that Wagner published his notorious antisemitic tract, Jewishness and Music.
News of you has reached me through Clara Schumann and through Kirchner that has reassured me somewhat concerning your dismaying remoteness from me. More than this reassurance, my belief in the noble earnestness of your character enables me to entrust to you a matter that requires the delicate and discreet consideration of a friend, in the full sense of the word, if I am to approach you for counsel and help. I ask you then not to take my confidence in an unkindly way if I convey my request to you with the following….
I am again, as I have been for a considerable time, in the position of being most uncomfortable for want of an adequate and secure subsidy, since my alternative income from theaters is of such haphazard and unpredictable nature that I cannot rely on it in the slightest, and its often unexpected failure to appear causes me the most disagreeable embarrassment. Only the patronage of a prince can protect me against this, which, if it does not spare me from all need of earning money from my labors, would at least allow me the reassuring support of a secure livelihood. So it may well be forgiven me that I have had my eye on the King of Hanover for some time. His great and earnest love of art, his eagerness to secure excellent artists for himself by means of unrestrained liberality, and further, his outspoken affinity for my music, as I have been led to believe, are surely good excuses for me.
So it occurred to me then, that it would perhaps be necessary only to make him aware of me, my situation and my wish, in order to prompt him, completely on his own, to take vigorous action to help me.
I have chosen you, dear Joachim, as it made such good sense, to accord me this great act of friendship;…
Read the full letter here.
Wagner at his worst.