Table of Contents
1. The source for Mozart's entry in Kronauer's Stammbuch
2. Mozart's English and his planned trip to London in 1787
• Tompson’s English Miscellanies
• Johann Georg Kronauer
• Kronauer's Stammbuch
The source for Mozart's entry in Kronauer's Stammbuch(⇧)
Mozart’s English-language entry in the Stammbuch (friendship book) of his fellow Mason Johann Georg Kronauer has been known since 1883, when George Grove published a transcription of it in his article on Franz Schubert in the third volume of A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Grove 1883, iii:332). In a footnote, Grove thanks C. F. Pohl for the reference; at that time, the Stammbuch appears to have been in private possession. In 1909 it was acquired by the Hofbibliothek in Vienna (now the Austrian National Library) from an “Ing[nieur] Merz” (see Mazal & Hilmar 1997, 35), who seems not previously to have been identified. It may have been the Viennese architect Oskar Merz (1830–1904)—but Merz’s date of death would imply that Kronauer’s Stammbuch, if it did indeed belong to Merz, was acquired from his estate. Merz was long involved with the Wiener Sängerbund and was elected to its Hauptversammlung on 6 Dec 1900. His involvement in that organization in earlier years might well have brought him into contact with Pohl (who died in 1887), which could explain how Pohl came to learn of Mozart’s entry. Kronauer’s Stammbuch (ÖNB, Handschriftensammlung, Ser. n. 4832) is now available online in a good color facsimile.
Mozart’s entry in Kronauer’s Stammbuch is transcribed in Dokumente (253) and Briefe (iv:40), and it has been quoted very frequently elsewhere. The Mozart literature generally betrays uncertainty over whether Mozart himself invented the English sentence; Otto Erich Deutsch writes, for example: “Ob die Sentenz von Mozart stammt oder ein Zitat ist, bleibt unentschieden” (Dokumente, 253: “Whether the maxim stems from Mozart or is a quotation remains undecided”). Up to now, no source for the sentence has been found.
Mozart’s entry can be traced back to a saying that was apparently first published in English in 1728, in an anonymous translation from a revised edition of Instruction sur l’Histoire de France et Romaine, originally by Claude Le Ragois. The title page of the translation reads:
L’Histoire Romaine, &c.
L E C T U R E
By Way of QUESTION and ANSWER:
In FRENCH and ENGLISH:
Giving an Account of some of the most consider-
able Persons and Things, from the Foundation
of ROME, to the Ruin of the EMPIRE.
Written originally in French,
By M. le R A G O I S, Preceptor to
The Duke du Maine.
With a large Collection of excellent MAXIMS and
curious REFLEXIONS, for the Conduct of Life,
and the Knowledge of one’s self and the World.
The whole now publish’d for the Advancement of
British Education. [...]
The sentence that eventually becomes Mozart’s entry in Kronauer’s Stammbuch appears here with a French original on the facing page:
The full text in French is:
La patience & la tranquillité de l’esprit con-
tribüent plus que tous les remedes à gue-
rir les maladies du corps. Les bétes [sic] qui
n’ont pas tant de peines d’esprit, ne sont
pas si long-tems, ni si dangereusement
malades que les hommes, & se guerissent
sans aucun remede, par le seul repos.
[Instruction sur l’Histoire Romaine, 73]
This is translated as:
Patience and Tranquillity of Mind contri-
bute more than the whole Art of Medi-
cine, to cure the Distempers of the Body.
Brutes, that have not so many Anxieties,
are neither so long, nor so dangerously
sick as Men; and cure themselves with-
out any Physik, by Repose alone.
The enormously popular Instruction sur l’Histoire de France by the obscure Claude Le Ragois was first published in 1687, four years after the date most commonly given for the author’s death. It was subsequently republished in an extraordinary number of editions, revisions, and extensions until well into the nineteenth century.
But the first edition does not contain the saying in French that became, in English translation, the basis for Mozart’s inscription in Kronauer’s Stammbuch. So far as we have been able to determine, the earliest edition in which that saying appears is the sixth, published in 1705. It is not in the fourth edition of 1696; we have not yet been able to check the fifth edition (1700), which seems not to be available online.
In the sixth edition, the saying reads:
La patience, & la tranquillité de
l’esprit contribüent plus que tous les
remedes, à guerir les maladies du
corps: les bêtes qui n’ont pas tant de
peines d’esprit, ne sont pas si long-
tems, ni si dangereusement malades
que les hommes, & se guerissent sans
aucun remede, par le seul repos.
[Instruction sur l’Histoire de France, 6th ed (1705), 534]
Apart from inconsequential differences in punctuation and the incorrect accent on “bétes” (probably a typographical error), the 1728 version is identical to that of 1705.
In the sixth edition of Instruction sur l’Histoire de France, the saying is found in the section “Recueil de bons mots, et des pensées choisies des auteurs anciens, et modernes.” This section was not part of the first edition of 1687. Since Le Ragois is said to have died around 1683, the “Recueil de bons mots” and the items in it must have been added by a later editor. The section’s title strongly suggests that “La patience & la tranquillité” is adopted from an even earlier source, but its source remains unknown. The ultimate source need not have been French.
The English version of the saying, “Patience and Tranquillity of Mind,” appeared again in 1737 in English Miscellanies, a large compendium of examples intended for English learners, assembled by John Tompson (1693–1768), public lecturer in English at the new University of Göttingen. (For more on Tompson, see the Notes below.) Tompson borrowed a large number of maxims and sayings in English translation from Instruction sur L’Histoire Romaine of 1728, and also incorporated its English translation of the history of Rome in catechismal form. Tompson’s Miscellanies came to be used in teaching in Göttingen, and it was adopted by other German universities. Because of its popularity, it was issued in four ever-expanding editions, in 1737, 1746, 1755, and 1766. The saying “Patience and Tranquillity of Mind” appears in at least three of these (1737, 1755, and 1766; we have not been able to see the edition of 1746).
In the Miscellanies, the saying reads in full:
Patience and Tranquillity of Mind contribute
more, than the whole Art of Medicine, to cure the
Distempers of the Body. Brutes, that have not so
many Anxieties, are neither so long, nor so dan-
gerously sick, as Men; and cure themselves without
Physick, by Repose alone.
[English Miscellanies, 4th ed. (1766), 68]
Apart from the omission of “any” before “Physick” and the added comma after “more”, this is identical to the version published in 1728.
“Patience and Tranquillity of Mind” appeared in at least one other book published during Mozart’s lifetime: the second edition (Berlin 1786) of Englische Sprachlehre für die Deutschen by Karl Philipp Moritz, who evidently lifted it (and indeed, much of the section) from Tompson.
One of these three books—the 1728 Instruction sur l’Histoire Romaine, or more likely Tompson’s English Miscellanies or the second edition of the Englische Sprachlehre by Moritz—would almost certainly have been Mozart’s direct source, although at present we cannot say which. So far as we have been able to determine, none of the three was ever advertised in a Viennese newspaper during the eighteenth century, and none was in Mozart’s estate. But Mozart might well have been able to borrow a copy from a friend, or he might once have owned a copy that was no longer in his estate at the time of the inventory. That two of the three were explicitly intended for German speakers learning English suggests that Mozart may have learned the saying while trying to improve his English.
Three books in English are listed in Mozart’s estate inventory: the play Percy, a Tragedy by Hannah More (1778); a 1761 edition of John Kirby’s The Capacity and Extent of the human Understanding, exemplified in the extraordinary Case of Automathes, a young Nobleman, who was accidentally left in his infancy upon a desolate Island, and continued nineteen Years in that solitary State, separate from all human Society; and a different compendium of examples intended for English learners, a 1774 edition of Frederick William Streit’s An Attempt to facilitate the Study of the English Language by publishing in the present cheap Manner a Collection of some Letters, Anecdotes, Remarks and Verses wrote by several celebrated English Authors… (see a 1789 edition here; for Mozart’s estate inventory, see Konrad & Staehelin 1991, here especially 13, 26, and 37). The 1789 edition of Streit’s book (other editions are not available online) does not contain “Patience and Tranquillity of Mind,” so this collection was probably not Mozart’s source. However, the presence of Streit’s collection in Mozart’s library is yet another indication of the composer’s desire to improve his English.
Four details suggest that Mozart reproduced the passage from memory. He inverts the phrases “than the whole Art of Medicine” and “to cure the Distempers of the Body”; he gives “our distempers” rather than “the Distempers of the Body”; he uses “as” instead of “than” (probably thinking of German “als”), and he writes “Medecine” instead of “Medicine.” However, Mozart’s “tranquillity,” which is sometimes assumed to be a misspelling, matches the spelling in all three books that might have been Mozart’s direct source.
Mozart’s English and his planned trip to London in 1787(⇧)
The extent of Mozart’s knowledge of English is unclear. He spent 15 months in London in 1764 and 1765, at the ages of eight and nine, and would certainly have absorbed and used the language during his stay there. But at present, we have no direct evidence that he used English at all between his departure from England in 1765 and his earliest known example of written English from 1782.
In a letter to his father from Vienna on 17 Aug 1782, Mozart writes that he is learning English:
Mein gedanke ist künftige fasten Nach Paris zu gehen; [...]
— ich habe mich die zeither täglich in der französischen sprache geübt — und nun
schon 3 lectionen im Englischen genommen. — in 3 Monathen hoffe ich so ganz
Passable die Engländischen bücher lesen und verstehen zu können.
My thought is to go to Paris this coming Lent; [...]
— Since that time [since his marriage] I have been practicing the French language
daily — and I’ve now taken 3 lessons in English. — In 3 months I thus hope to be
able to read and understand books from England quite acceptably.
The commentary to this letter in Briefe claims that Mozart later continued his studies of English with Kronauer (“Mozart setzte die Sprachstudien, inbesondere in der englischen Sprache weiter fort; er zog hierzu später einen Sprachlehrer, Johann Georg Kronauer …”; Briefe, vi:115), but there is no evidence for this: Kronauer, who came from Winterthur in Switzerland, gave French lessons in Vienna, but he is not known ever to have spoken, written, or taught English. (On Kronauer, see the Notes below.)
Mozart’s first known written sentence in English appears six weeks later in a letter to Baroness Waldstätten:
— j kiß your hands, and hoping to see you in good health the Tuesday j am
your most humble servant
This sentence suggests that Mozart’s command of idiomatic English was not highly developed at that point. In any case, Leopold quickly persuaded Wolfgang not to undertake a trip to France and England in Lent 1783 (Briefe, iii:224, 23ff, and iii:230, 41–42), and there is no further mention of English lessons.
A small number of entries in English in Mozart’s hand appear in Thomas Attwood’s studies with Mozart between 1785 and 1787 (NMA, X/30/1). Most of these entries are very short, sometimes just single words (“bad”, “good”, “better”). Mozart’s longest known entries in Attwood’s studies are:
There are many faults in this Exemp[le] [...]
This after noon I am not at home, therefore I pray you
to come to morrow at three
[&] half. Mozartmpa
In the first of these, a square piece has been excised from the margin, leaving telltale fragments of letters in Mozart’s hand. It seems likely that the leaf originally contained a longer entry in English by Mozart that was clipped at some point as a souvenir; if the souvenir survives, its current location is unknown. In the second quotation, “[&] half” has been crossed out and Attwood has written “& a half”.
From Leopold we know that Wolfgang planned to go to England in the spring of 1787. On 17 Nov 1786, Leopold wrote to Nannerl:
Heut habe einen Brief deines Bruders beantworten müssen der mir viel Schreibens gekostet hat, folglich kann dir sehr wenig schreiben, — [...] Daß ich einen sehr nachdrücklichen Brief schreiben musste, kannst dir leicht vorstellen, da er mir keinen geringern Vortrag macht, als seine 2 kinder in meine Versorgung zu nehmen, da er im halben fasching eine Reise durch Teutschland nach Engelland machen möchte etc: — ich habe aber tüchtig geschrieben, und versprochen die Continuation meines Briefes mit nächster Post ihm zu schicken. [Briefe, iii:606]
Today I had to answer a letter from your brother that cost me a lot of writing, consequently I can write very little to you. — [...] That I had to write a very emphatic letter to him you can easily imagine, as he made me no lesser proposal than that I should take his 2 children into my care, as he wants in mid Lent to take a trip through Germany to England, etc. — However, I wrote very aptly, and promised to send him the continuation of my letter in the next post.
Leopold’s letters to Wolfgang and Wolfgang’s to him from this time are not known to survive, so we know few details about this exchange.
On 12 Jan 1787, Leopold wrote to Nannerl:
Md:me Duscheck gehet nach Berlin, und die Rede, daß dein Bruder nach Engelland reisen wird, bestättigt sich noch immer von Wienn, von Prag und von München aus.
Madame Duschek is going to Berlin, and the talk that your brother will travel to England is confirmed from Vienna, from Prague, and from Munich.
Leopold is likely referring here to newspaper reports. At present, four are known that mention Wolfgang’s plan to go to London. On 15 Dec 1786, a letter from Vienna dated 6 Dec was published in the Staats- und gelehrten Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten, which states:
Schreiben aus Wien, vom 6 December.
[...] Der berühmte Compositor, Herr Mozart, schickt sich an, auf künftiges Frühjahr nach London zu reisen, wohin er die vortheilhaftesten Anträge hat. Er wird seinen Weg über Paris nehmen. [...]
[Neue Folge, 48]
Letter from Vienna, 6 December.
[...] The famous composer, Herr Mozart, is preparing to travel to London early next year, where he has the most advantageous offers. He will go by way of Paris. [...]
The identical sentences appeared in the Prager Oberpostamtszeitung on 26 Dec 1786 (Dokumente, 248). Two other references to Mozart’s prospective trip to London had not yet been published by the time of Leopold’s letter to Nannerl on 12 Jan. On 23 Apr 1787 the Magazin der Musik published a letter from Vienna dated 29 Jan 1787 that also refers to Mozart’s travels:
Den 23sten April, 1787.
Nachrichten; Auszüge aus Briefen,
3) Wien, den 29sten Januar, 1787.) ….
— Storace ist hier,
und noch immer unsere Lieblingssängerin, wird aber mit
Anfang der Fasten Wien verlassen, und schwer zu ersetzen
seyn. Mozart hat vor einigen Wochen eine musikalische
Reise nach Prag, Berlin, und man sagt, sogar nach London
[Magazin der Musik, 2/ii: 1272–73; Dokumente, 255]
23 April 1787.
News; Extracts from Letters,
3) Vienna, 29 January 1787.) ….
— Storace is here.
and is still our favorite female singer, but she will leave
Vienna at the beginning of Lent, and will be hard to
replace. A few weeks ago Mozart set off on a musical
tour to Prague, Berlin, and it is said, even to London,
Mozart was indeed in Prague on the date of the byline: he and Constanze had departed Vienna for Prague on 8 Jan 1787, and they left to return to Vienna on 8 Feb. There is no evidence that they intended to travel further than Prague on that particular trip, and the correspondent to Magazin der Musik was probably simply reporting gossip.
Another reference (albeit somewhat garbled) to Mozart’s planned trip to London was published in the Bayreuther Zeitung on 12 Mar 1787, in a correspondent’s letter from Vienna dated 1 Mar:
Wien, vom 1. März
Herr Mozzart durfte gestern eine musikalische Aca=
demie zu seinen Vortheil geben, und hatte eine gute
Einnahme. Er reist in diesem Monath mit seiner Frau
nach Londen [sic], um sein Talent daselbst bewundern und
belohnen zu lassen, wohin er von dem Sohn des Königl.
Capellmeister Sir Atwulf, der sich einige Monathe
hier aufgehalten hat, eingeladen worden, und es ist
als gewiß anzunehmen, daß er sehr gefallen werde.
[Bayreuther Zeitung, Mon, 12 Mar 1787, 112]
Vienna, from 1 March
Yesterday Herr Mozart was able to give a musical
academy for his own benefit and had good receipts. He
is traveling this month with his wife to London to have
his talent admired and rewarded there, having been
invited by the son of the Royal kapellmeister Sir Atwulf
[recte Attwood], who stopped here for several months;
and it can be taken as certain that he will please greatly.
Mozart’s benefit concert in the Kärntnertortheater on 28 Feb 1787, if it took place, may have been specifically intended to help him raise money for the trip. (For more on this report and the concert, which is known only from this source, see our entry for 28 Feb 1787.)
On 3 Jan 1787, Amand Wilhelm Smith, who had been studying medicine in Vienna and knew Mozart personally, wrote to Emerich Horváth-Stansith in Zips (now the Spiš region of Slovakia):
Mozart post mensem Londinum pergit ibi domicilium fixurus. Dolent multi de ejus abitu. certe in cembalo non habet sibi parem. [Fuchs 2006, 196]
In one month Mozart sets off for London to establish residence there. Many mourn his departure. Certainly he does not have an equal on the keyboard.
On 15 Jan 1787 Mozart wrote from Prague to his close friend Gottfried von Jacquin in Vienna; a passage in this letter strongly implies that Wolfgang was planning to leave Vienna quite soon after his return, perhaps permanently:
— wenn ich bedenke daß ich nach meiner zurückkunft nur eine kurze Zeit noch das Vergnügen genüssen kann in ihrer werthen gesellschaft zu seyn, und dann auf so lange — und vieleicht auf immer dieses Vergnügen werde entbehren müssen — dann fühle ich erst ganz die freundschaft und Achtung welche ich gegen ihr ganzes Haus hege; — Nun leben sie wohl liebster freund, liebster HinkitiHonky! — [Briefe, iv:11]
— When I consider that after my return I will have only a short time yet to be able to enjoy your dear company, and then will have to be deprived of this pleasure for so long—and perhaps forever—only then do I feel the friendship and regard in which I hold your entire household; — Now farewell, dearest friend, dearest HinkitiHonky! —
Mozart and his wife left Prague on 8 Feb 1787 and probably arrived in Vienna three or four days later, although the precise date is unknown. Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent and the Viennese concert season—fell on 21 Feb that year. On 19 Feb, the immensely popular English soprano Ann (“Nancy”) Storace gave her final opera performance in Vienna, appearing in Martín y Soler’s Il burbero di buon cuore. Storace, who had made her debut in Vienna in Apr 1783, had created the role of Susanna in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in 1786. Storace’s older brother, the composer Stephen, had joined her in Vienna around the end of 1784, and his opera Gli sposi malcontenti was produced by the court theater the following year.
Also making his debut in the Viennese court theater in Apr 1783 was the Irish buffo tenor Michael Kelly, who created the roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in Figaro. Kelly and the Storaces were native speakers of English, all three knew Mozart well, and he might at least occasionally have practiced speaking English with them. But all three had studied in Italy, all three were certainly fluent in Italian—and all evidence suggests that Mozart’s Italian was considerably better than his English, so one suspects that he more often conversed with them in that language. (It is very unlikely that they conversed in German.) Mozart might also have practiced speaking English with his student, the young English composer Thomas Attwood. But Attwood had studied in Naples for two years before coming to Vienna in Aug 1785, and was probably also comfortable speaking Italian. Most of Mozart’s entries in Attwood’s studies are in Italian, and it seems likely that Mozart gave his lessons to Attwood primarily in Italian, perhaps interspersed with bits of English.
Nancy Storace gave a farewell concert in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna on Fri, 23 Feb 1787. For the occasion Mozart composed the concert aria “Ch’io mi scordi di te … Non temer amato bene,” K. 505, with obbligato piano solo; they performed the work together at the concert, and we know from a later reminiscence of Thomas Attwood that Mozart also performed the Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466 (Neue Folge, 90). The day of the concert, Amand Wilhelm Smith wrote to Horváth-Stansith:
M. Storace hodie ultima vice canit in academia musica, quam pro favore suo dat, altera Septimana Londinum pergit cum Mozartio. Publicum dolet illius abitum. [Fuchs 2006, 196]
Madame Storace sings for the last time today in a musical academy she is giving for her own benefit. Next week she goes to London with Mozart. The public mourns her leaving.
In fact, Storace, her brother, Kelly, Attwood and their entourage left Vienna on their journey back to London not “next week,” but shortly after the concert, probably the following morning or perhaps even later that same night—and Mozart was not with them. In a letter written to his daughter on 1 Mar, Leopold Mozart reported that the company had arrived in Salzburg on Mon, 26 Feb. The morning after their arrival Leopold gave them a tour of Salzburg and lunched with them. In the evening he heard Nancy Storce sing three arias (one likes to imagine that “Deh vieni non tardar” was among them); the company then departed for Munich at midnight in their two coaches (Briefe, iv:28). In a continuation of the same letter on 2 Mar, Leopold reported to Nannerl what the visitors had told him about Wolfgang, from whom he had had no recent letters:
In betref deines Bruders hab erfahren, daß er wieder in Wienn ist, denn ich hatte, seit dem ihm nach Prag geschrieben, keine Antwort; daß er 1000 f in Prag |: wie sie sagten :| gewonnen; daß sein letzter Bueb Leopoldl gestorben; und daß er, wie bemerkte, nach Engelland reisen will, allein daß sein Scolar ihm vorhero in London etwas gewisses ausmachen soll, näm: den Contract eine opera zu schreiben, oder ein Subscriptions Concert etcetc: über den näm: gegenstand wird ihm auch M:dme Storaci das Maul gemacht haben und die ganze Gesellschaft, und diese Leute und sein Scolar werden den Gedanken in ihm auch anfangs erweckt haben, mit ihnen nach Engelland zu gehen. Nachdem ich ihm aber vätterlich darüber geschrieben, daß er auf der Reise im Sommer nichts gewinnen, auch zur unrechten zeit in Engell: anlangen würde, — da er wenigst 2000 f im Sack haben müsste um diese Reise zu unternehmen, und daß er endlich, ohne etwas gewisses als engagement in London schon zu haben, es wagen würde bey aller Geschicklichkeit anfangs wenigst sicher Noth zu leiden; — so wird er den Muth verloren haben, da natür: Weise der Brüder der Sängerin für diesesmahl eine opera schreiben wird. [Briefe, iv:28–29]
As regards your brother I learned that he is in Vienna again (for I had no answer from him since I wrote to him in Prague); that he earned (they said) 1000 fl. in Prague; that his most recent child Leopoldl died; and that he, as I’ve said, wants to travel to England, provided that his student [Attwood] will have arranged something certain for him in London in advance, namely a contract to write an opera or a subscription concert etcetc. Madame Storace and the entire company will also have cajoled him on said topic, and these people and his student will have newly awakened in him the idea to go to England with them. After I had written to him in a fatherly way about this—that he would earn nothing from a trip in the summer, and that he would reach England at the wrong time—that he must have at least 2000 fl in his bag to undertake such a trip, and that he would in the end, without some sort of certain engagement in London, in spite of all skill at the beginning, risk suffering certain want—so he will have lost courage, for naturally her brother wants to write an opera for the singer this time.
Leopold is venting frustration here, having had no recent direct communication from his son. But all evidence points to the conclusion that Wolfgang had been planning a trip to London since at least November and that he had not changed his mind by the time he returned to Vienna from Prague in February. This plan would have been a strong motivation for renewing his studies of English, and it is the direct context for his English-language entry in Kronauer’s Stammbuch on 30 Mar 1787. It makes perfect sense in this context that Mozart made use of a maxim (that he slightly misremembered) from a compendium intended for English learners.
Mozart himself acquired a Stammbuch around the time of his entry into Kronauer’s. The earliest dated entry into Mozart’s book was made by the bass Ludwig Fischer, the original Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Dokumente, 254), who was visiting Vienna in early 1787, having left the city and the ensemble of the court theater in 1783. Mozart’s Stammbuch was given to the Dommusikverein in Salzburg by his son Karl in 1841 and was subsequently in the collection of the Mozarteum, but it has been lost since 1945.
Roland Tenschert, who was able to examine Mozart’s Stammbuch in person, plausibly suggested that it was given to him as a gift by his student Barbara Ployer, whose own Stammbuch (now in the possession of the Mozarteum) is essentially identical in design (Tenschert 1927, 12). During the time that Mozart used the Stammbuch, he collected only eleven entries. Five were made in Apr 1787 and four later that year; the last dated entry was made by physician “Ant. Schmith” on 31 Oct 1789 (Fuchs 2006, 191, suggests that this may have been Amand Wilhelm Smith); one entry, by Joseph von Bauernfeld, was undated. (On Mozart’s Stammbuch, see Engl 1911; all eleven entries are given in Dokumente.) This pattern of entries is consistent with Mozart having intended to take a Stammbuch with him on his journey to London and quickly acquiring several entries when his departure still seemed imminent. But his enthusiasm then seems to have waned when his plans changed.
A poem entered into Mozart’s Stammbuch on 14 Apr 1787 by physician Sigmund Barisani alludes to Mozart’s impending trip to Britain and his departure from Vienna.
Wien den 14ten Aprilmonats 1787.
Wenn deines Flügels Meisterspiel
Den Briten, der, selbst gross an Geist,
Den grossen Mann zu schätzen weiss,
Dahinreisst zur Bewunderung;
Wenn deine Kunst, um welche dich
Der welsche Komponist beneidt,
Und wie er kann und mag verfolgt;
Wenn deine Kunst, in der dir nur
Ein Bach, ein Joseph Hayden gleicht
Dir längst verdientes Glück erwirbt,
Vergiss da deines Freundes nicht,
Der sich mit Wonne stets und stets
Mit Stolz erinnern wird, dass er
Als Arzt dir zweymal hat gedient
Und dich der Welt zur Lust erhielt,
Der aber noch weit stolzer ist
Dass du sein Freund bist so wie er.
Dein Freund Sigmund Barisani
Physicus Primarius im allgemeinen
Vienna, 14 April 1787.
If your masterly pianism exalts to admiration
the Briton, who, himself great of spirit,
knows how to value a great man;
If your art, which the Italian composer
envies, and pursues as he can and may;
If your art, in which you are equalled
only by a Bach, a Joseph Haydn,
gains you your long-deserved good fortune;
Do not forget there your friend,
who will ever remember with delight
and ever with pride that he,
as a doctor, has served you twice,
and preserved you for the world’s delight;
who is, however, far prouder still
that you are his friend, as he is yours.
Your friend Sigmund Barisani
Physicus Primarius in the Allgemeines
[translation by DE]
The last few lines of this poem are a farewell, with the strong implication that Mozart is going to seek his fortune in Britain. Ten days later, Mozart produced his last known example of written English, an inscription in the Stammbuch of Joseph Franz von Jacquin, Gottfried’s brother:
don’t never forget your true and faithfull friend
Vienna. the 24 april. 1787.
Wolfgang Amadè Mozartmpia
In the wider context, this entry is also a farewell, written in the language of the city to which Mozart is evidently still planning to travel at that point.
Yet Mozart did not go to London. It has been rather carelessly assumed in the Mozart literature that he gave up the idea after Leopold read him the riot act in lost letters from late 1786 and early 1787. (This reading of the evidence seems to go back to Jahn 1858, iii:179ff.) But careful chronological analysis shows that Mozart seems still to have been planning the trip until at least 24 Apr 1787. Why did he change his mind?
Mozart scholars have generally claimed that the composer returned to Vienna from Prague in early Feb 1787 with a contract in hand from Pasquale Bondini to compose a new opera that coming autumn. This was the commission that became Don Giovanni. (This claim is made in, for example, Plath & Rehm 1968, Rushton 1981, and Wolfgang Rehm’s musicological introduction to Mozart 2009.) Yet there is no primary evidence that Mozart had the commission at the time of his return to Vienna from Prague. The idea seems to derive from Niemetschek:
Der Opernunternehmer Bondini schloß zugleich mit Mozart
den Akkord zu einer neuen Oper für die Prager Bühne auf den näch=
sten Winter, welche dieser gerne übernahm, weil er erfahren hatte, wie
gut die Böhmen seine Musik zu schätzen und auszuführen verstanden.
[Niemetschek 1798, 28]
The opera impresario Bondini at once reached an agreement
with Mozart for a new opera for the Prague stage the next winter, which
the latter gladly accepted, because he had experienced how well
the Bohemians understand how to appreciate and perform his music.
Niemetschek sandwiches this statement directly between a description of Mozart’s concert in Prague on 19 Jan 1787, and a report of Mozart’s thanks to the theater orchestra in Prague for its fine work in Figaro. A superficial reading may leave the impression that Niemetschek is explicitly claiming that Mozart left Prague with a contract. But Niemetschek speaks only of an “Akkord” (an agreement) and writes “zugleich” (at once), which is not specific. In any case, we have no reason to think that Niemetischek had direct knowledge of any negotiations or correspondence between Bondini and Mozart at the time, and his statement does not count as primary evidence.
A careful consideration of the known primary evidence shows that Mozart probably did not return to Vienna in Feb 1787 with a contract in hand for a new opera. For it is extremely unlikely that Mozart would have continued to plan in late April an imminent trip to London, more than two months after returning from Prague, had he already committed to writing a new opera for that city by the end of the year. It is much more plausible that Mozart cancelled or postponed the trip because he received Bondini’s commission at some point after 24 Apr 1787
The hypothesis that Mozart got a later start on Don Giovanni than is generally supposed is supported by the paper-types of the autograph. The first paper-type that Mozart used for the opera is almost certainly the one Edge identifies as 55-III (Edge 2001, Table 3.1, 430). It is the earliest paper-type in the opera’s autograph to which any firm date can be attached. There are 117 leaves (over two quires) of paper-type 55-III in Mozart’s known autographs. Four leaves (two bifolia) appear in the fourth movement of Mozart’s String Quintet in C Major, dated 19 Apr 1787, the earliest date associated with this paper-type. So Mozart probably acquired his first batch of it around this time. Eleven leaves appear in the autograph of K. 522, dated 14 Jun 1787, seven in the autograph of K. 525, dated 10 Aug 1787, and eleven in the autograph of K. 526, dated 24 Aug 1787.
The autograph of Don Giovanni contains 47 leaves of paper-type 55-III, all at the beginning of the opera. It is the paper-type used for scenes i–vi and vii in Act I, and it is thus almost certainly the first paper-type used for the opera’s composition (see the foliation diagram in Mozart 2009, iii:143–44). If the hypothesis put forward here is correct—that Mozart received the commission from Bondini at some point after 24 Apr 1787, and allowing time for Lorenzo Da Ponte to begin adapting the libretto—the earliest that Mozart could have begun work on the opera would have been the middle of May, and he probably began even later than that. Work on the opera would have been more than sufficient reason for Mozart to defer his plan to go to London.
In a letter to his father written on 19 Oct 1782, Mozart famously refers to himself as an “Arch-Englishman”:
— Ja wohl habe ich, und zwar zu meiner grossen freude |: denn sie wissen wohl daß ich ein ErzEngelländer bin :| Engellands Siege gehört! — [Briefe, iii:239]
— Yes indeed, I have heard, and to my great joy (for you well know that I’m an Arch-Englishmen) of England’s victory! —
He is referring here to England’s overwhelming victory against the massive assault launched by Spain and France in the Great Siege of Gibraltar (Mozart might well have read about this victory in the Wiener Zeitung on 12 Oct 1782), and it has nothing directly to do with any plan to go to London.
But it is easy to imagine that for all Mozart’s wide travels in his youth, London might have retained a special place in his heart and memory. It was unlike any other city that he had visited: it was by far the largest city in Europe, and because of its burgeoning global trade, arguably the most cosmopolitan. To Mozart it may well have seemed the most open city he had ever experienced, socially and economically, and the variety and frequency of its public cultural life far outstripped anything he had experienced elsewhere during his travels—as can be seen by an examination of any random issue of The Public Advertiser from the time. During the Mozarts’ fifteen months in the city, Wolfgang performed in a wider variety of settings than at any time before his decade in Vienna: in London he performed before royalty, in private settings, at public concerts both indoor and outdoor, even in a tavern. The young Mozart was befriended in London by the famous Johann Christian Bach, a German who had made a highly successful career as an independent entrepreneurial musician, a worthy model for emulation. Handel had died in 1759, just five years before the Mozarts arrived, and his heroic example as an increasingly iconic composer of opera, oratorio, and instrumental music in London may have made a deep impression on young Wolfgang as something to aspire to. In later years, London would probably have continued to seem to Mozart a city of endless potential. Ever-practical Leopold was only too well aware of the high cost of living in London and the risks of the life of an independent performer and composer, and he attempted to warn Wolfgang against these. But by the mid 1780s, Wolfgang had tasted considerable success as an independent composer and performer in Vienna (and by early 1787 in Prague), and it is not surprising that London would have seemed an especially attractive prospect, compared to the restricted opportunities and rather ingrown audience in Vienna.
We can only guess why Mozart was drawn to the particular saying that he inscribed into Kronauer’s Stammbuch. “Patience” and “tranquility of mind” are the subjects of other English maxims in the same three books that were potential direct sources for Mozart:
Patience is the surest Remedy against Calumnies.
Time, soon, or late, discovers the Truth.
Nothing is more capable of confounding our Ene-
mies, than Patience in Injuries. A touchy Man
commonly shews them his Foibles, and gives them
an Opportunity, to make an Advantage of it.
[English Miscellanies, 1766, 59]
Four Things are necessary to the Happiness of
Life: Health, Tranquillity of Mind, Goods of
Fortune, sincere Friends.
[English Miscellanies, 1766, 65]
These are quoted from the 1766 edition of English Miscellanies, but all three also appear in Instructions sur l’Histoire Romaine in 1728 and in Moritz’s Englische Sprachlehre of 1786.
A passage from John Tillotson’s sermon “The Wisdom of being Religious” in the 1755 edition of English Miscellanies also resonates here:
It is to be wise, as to our main Interest. Our
chief End and highest Interest is Happiness. And
this is Happiness, to be freed from all, (if it may
be) however from the greatest Evils; and to enjoy
(if it may be) all Good, however the chiefest.
To be happy, is not only to be freed from the
Pains and Diseases of the Body, but from Anxiety
and Vexation of Spirit; not only to enjoy the
Pleasures of Sense, but Peace of Conscience, and
Tranquillity of Mind. To be happy, is not only
to be so, for a little While, but as long, as may be;
and, if it be possible, for ever. [...]
[English Miscellanies, 1755, 312]
It is perhaps not entirely fanciful to imagine that Mozart might have used the English Miscellanies or one of these other books as a sort of guide to self-improvement—a “self-help” book avant la lettre. Such was, in fact, the stated intention of the anonymous translator of Instruction sur l’Histoire Romaine, who wrote on the title page in 1728:
With a large Collection of excellent MAXIMS and
curious REFLEXIONS, for the Conduct of Life,
and the Knowledge of one’s self and the World.