Read Beethoven’s Lengthy Love Letter to His Mysterious “Immortal Beloved” (1812)


If you’ve ever seen the 1994 fea­ture film where Gary Old­man plays Lud­wig van Beethoven, you know the sig­nif­i­cance of the words “Immor­tal Beloved” from which it takes its title. But have you seen the actu­al arti­fact that inspired it? “Around 1812 Beethoven wrote a long let­ter (10 pages) to a woman who he was obvi­ous­ly quite tak­en with,” says the blog LvB and More. “Sad­ly we will nev­er know for cer­tain who it was. How­ev­er the let­ter itself was dis­cov­ered after Beethoven’s death in a secret draw­er where he also kept the Heili­gen­stadt Tes­ta­ment, some sav­ings and some pic­tures.” There you can find images of the let­ter in ques­tion (the first two pages appear above, the sec­ond two below) and a trans­la­tion from, faith­ful right down to the com­poser’s line breaks, which begins as fol­lows:

July 6
In the morn­ing-

My angel, my all
my self — only a few
words today, and indeed with pen­cil
(with yours)
only tomor­row is my lodg­ing pos­i­tive­ly fixed
what a worth­less waste
of time on such — why
this deep grief, where
neces­si­ty speaks -
can our love exist but
by sac­ri­fices
by not demand­ing every­thing
can you change it, that you
not com­plete­ly mine. I am not
com­plete­ly yours — Oh God


Despite the best efforts of Beethoven’s biog­ra­phers (and of the wide­ly dis­put­ed the­o­ry on which the afore­men­tioned movie oper­ates), igno­rant we remain of the iden­ti­ty of the Immor­tal Beloved to whom Beethoven addressed such words of pas­sion. Still, don’t let that stop you from draw­ing your own con­clu­sions, such as you can from exam­i­na­tion of the pages them­selves, also avail­able for perusal at Fu$k Yeah Man­u­scripts. You may remem­ber them from our post on the draw­ings Dos­toyevsky did as he wrote his nov­els, and from there you can draw the cor­rect con­clu­sion that the site offers a deep well of intrigu­ing works in progress, pieces of cor­re­spon­dence, cris de coeur, and var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions there­of.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Slavoj Žižek Exam­ines the Per­verse Ide­ol­o­gy of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

Beethoven’s Ode to Joy Played With 167 Theremins Placed Inside Matryosh­ka Dolls in Japan

Richard Feynman’s Let­ter to His Depart­ed Wife: “You, Dead, Are So Much Bet­ter Than Any­one Else Alive” (1946)

James Joyce’s “Dirty Let­ters” to His Wife (1909)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

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