The writer and actor Joachim Perinet (1763–1816) was born in Vienna and spent his entire life and career there, apart from a short engagement in Brünn (Brno) in 1807 (see the biography of Perinet below). As a writer, his specialty was comedy, in a variety of genres, including satirical vignettes, comic verse, witty epigrams, comic singspiel libretti, and (especially in many of his later theatrical works) parody. His early prose works, of which the passage here is a sample, are especially dense in topical allusion, and can be difficult for the modern reader. He wrote or adapted a large number of works for the theater; two of his singspiels for the Theater in der Leopoldstadt in the 1790s were particular hits: Das neue Sonntagskind (1793) and Die Schwestern von Prag (1794), both with music by Wenzel Müller. The song “Ich bin der Schneider Wetz und Wetz” from Die Schwestern von Prag, better known under its sanitized title “Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu,” provided the theme for Beethoven’s variations for piano trio, op. 121a. (On the various indelicate meanings of “Wetz,” “Watz,” and “wetzen” that led to the substitution of “Kakadu,” see Edelmann 1992, 79 and note 11. The verb “wetzen”, literally “to whet” or “to grind”, is a slang term in Viennese dialect meaning “to copulate”; see Wehle 1980, 287.) Perinet was the librettist for Der Fagottist, oder die Zauberzither (premiered 8 Jun 1791), also known as Kaspar der Fagottist, likewise with music by Müller. Mozart, in a letter to Constanze dated 12 Jun 1791, reported having attended this singspiel the previous evening:
— ich gieng dann um mich aufzuheitern zum Kasperl in die neue Oper der Fagottist, die so viel Lärm macht—aber gar nichts daran ist. (Briefe, iv:137)
—Then to cheer myself up, I went to see Kasperl in the new opera Der Fagottist, which is making such a stir—but there’s nothing to it at all.
Perinet came of age during the “Broschürenflut” following the relaxation of censorship by Joseph II in the early 1780s (see Beales 2009, 89–101), and his early prose writings, which became part of that flood, not infrequently contain pointed social critique and sexual innuendo. The extract transcribed here from 29 Annehmlichkeiten is a mild example, with its suggestion of uncharacteristically frisky husbands, awakened by pounding coppersmiths, and maidens in danger of “losing their [little] wreaths” (“Kränzchen”) from the (presumably erotic) dreams caused by the pounding.
The 29 Annehmlichkeiten in Wien (29 Amenities in Vienna), from which the passage above is drawn, appeared early in 1787, near the beginning of Perinet’s career, when he was still only 23. It was the first of three short volumes with similar titles; the other two are 30 Annehmlichkeiten in Wien (1787), and 20 und 4 Annehmlichkeiten in Wien (1788). The “Annehmlichkeiten” are short satirical vignettes on Viennese places, customs, holidays, and events, sometimes (as here) imitating the tone of guidebooks to the imperial capital. All three volumes of the Annehmlichkeiten were published anonymously, “von einem Satyr” (“by a satyr”), as the title page has it (Perinet also uses the spelling “Satyr” to mean “satire”). The original title page of 29 Annehmlichkeiten includes an image of a satyr butting heads with a goat.
Perinet’s published writings often have French epigraphs. The epigraph here, “Qui promet, s’oblige” (roughly “a promise is an obligation”) is derived from the Latin saying “Promissio parit debitum.”
Naglergasse in Vienna, the subject of this vignette, dates back to the fourteenth century, and still exists today. It follows the line of a medieval city wall, which in turn followed a wall of the ancient Roman compound. Naglergasse is and always has been very narrow. The street was referred to in 1432 as “Unter den Nadlern” (“Among the needle makers”); according to guild regulations of the time, needle makers were obliged to have their shops there. (Several streets in Vienna still retain such “trade” names: Bäckerstraße, Goldschmiedgasse, and the like; for a brief introduction, see this page.) In time, the name “Nadlergasse” became corrupted to “Naglergasse,” suggesting nail makers rather than needle makers.
Although the restriction on shop locations had long since been relaxed by the eighteenth century, a 1786 guide to Viennese houses suggests that the street’s association with metalworking had not been entirely lost: house no. 178 on Naglergasse was owned at that time by “Ferdinand Obrist bür[gerlicher] Kupferschmidt” (coppersmith) and house no. 211, almost directly across from it, was owned by Franz Bauer, also a coppersmith. Given that houses 178 and 211 were owned by coppersmiths, the trade that Perinet specifically refers to, it seems plausible that Obrist and Bauer may still have been active, and that apprentice and journeymen coppersmiths might have been working with them. In any case, Perinet’s satirical vignette would not have made much sense had metalworkers not still been active in Naglergasse at the time.
The narrowness of Naglergasse is the joke behind Perinet’s hyperbolic reference to it as one of Vienna’s few “Hauptstrassen” (main streets). The acoustics of the narrow street, flanked on either side by uninterrupted rows of houses several stories high, would have amplified and echoed banging metal, potentially creating quite a racket.
The “Akademien” (concerts) that Perinet refers to, for the benefit of “musicians’ widows and orphans,” were those of the Viennese Tonkünstler-Societät, the pension association for the upper tier of Viennese musicians, such as the salaried players in the court theater orchestras. The society typically gave pairs of concerts at the ends of Advent and Lent to raise money for the pension fund. By the time of the publication of 29 Annehmlichkeiten, Mozart had appeared as a soloist at concerts of the Tonkünstler-Societät on 3 Apr 1781, 22 Dec 1783, and most recently on 23 Dec 1785, when he performed his newly composed Concerto in E-flat, K. 482. (On the Tonkünstler-Societät and Mozart’s dealings with it, see Black 2015; programs for the society’s concerts are given in Pohl 1871 and Morrow 1989.) The concerts of the Tonkünstler-Societät were perhaps the most prestigious of the time in Vienna, often featuring a full oratorio by a celebrated composer, with performances by distinguished soloists in the interval. It is in the context of these grand concerts that Perinet’s reference to the “grand concert” of coppersmiths should be understood.
Continuing the ironic comparison, Perinet depicts the “concert” of the coppersmiths in Naglergasse as more beautiful than the “Harmonika” (the glass harmonica) and “Mozarts Fortepiano”; he clearly intends his readers to understand these as musical sounds of exemplary beauty.
Mozart had performed frequently on the piano in Vienna during his first fews years in the city, but documentation is known for only five possible performances in 1786, the year before the 29 Annehmlichkeiten appeared, and two in 1787. On Fri, 7 Apr 1786, Mozart gave a concert for his own benefit in the Burgtheater, as reported in the Wiener Zeitung the following day (WZ, 8 Apr 1786; see also Dokumente, 237). It was his only known appearance as a performer in Vienna during the Lenten concert season that year. The report specifies that Mozart performed a concerto, usually assumed to be the one he had most recently completed, the Concerto in C minor, K. 491.
Leopold Mozart, in a letter to his daughter dated 8 Dec 1786, mentions in passing that Wolfgang planned to give a series of four subscription concerts in the “casino” of the Trattnerhof in Advent that year (Briefe, iii:618). But Wolfgang’s letter, which Leopold apparently enclosed along with his own, is lost, and no other documentation of these concerts is currently known. (If they did take place, they may have started by the time of Leopold’s letter, as Advent began on 3 Dec that year.) These five, then, are the only concert appearances by Mozart in Vienna in 1786 for which we have any documentation, and we know very little about them—we do not even know for certain, in the case of the Advent series, if they actually happened.
Mozart is known to have performed twice in Vienna during the Lenten season in 1787, and it may be these recent performances (and perhaps the Advent concerts in 1786, if these took place) that prompted Perinet’s reference to “Mozarts Fortepiano.” On 23 Feb 1787 Mozart took part in soprano Nancy Storace’s farewell concert in the Kärntnertortheater immediately before her return to England. Although the poster for that concert is not known to survive, we are informed in a much later letter written by Thomas Attwood (who had been at the concert) that Mozart played his Concerto in D Minor, K. 466, as well as the obbligato piano solo in the concert aria “Non temer, amato bene,” K. 505, which Mozart had composed specifically for Storace (extracts from Attwood’s letter, which may date from the 1830s, are in Neue Folge, 90). On this site, we have been able to document a previously unknown concert that Mozart gave for his own benefit in the Burgtheater just five days later, on 28 Feb 1787. It seems very likely that he would have performed on the piano at that concert, but as the program is currently undocumented, we cannot be certain.
As it happens, we know that the first edition of the 29 Annhemlichkeiten appeared quite early in 1787: an advertisement by Viennese publisher and bookseller Lukas Hochleitner in the Wiener Zeitung on 28 Mar 1787 offers the “second printing” (“2te Aufl[age]”) of the 29 Annehmlichkeiten, with a notice that the second volume will be published within days (“in nächster Tagen”). We also know (or at least Perinet claims in the preface to his second volume, the 30 Annehmlichkeiten) that the first printing of 29 Annehmlichkeiten sold out in less than a week (“weniger als acht Tagen”); this statement and the date of Hochleitner’s advertisement suggest that the volume cannot have appeared later than around the middle of March. This leaves a fairly narrow window for Perinet to have heard (or heard reports of) Mozart performing in late February before writing him into the first edition of the 29 Annehmlichkeiten, but it is at least theoretically possible that the February performances were Perinet’s immediate inspiration. In any case, Perinet evidently felt that “Mozarts Fortepiano” as a standard of beautiful musical sound would be sufficiently vivid in the minds of his Viennese readers that he could use it as a foil in an ironic comparison with the “concert” of the coppersmiths in Naglergasse. The apparent urgency behind the printing of the first two installments of the Annehmlichkeiten early in 1787 seems to have abated; the preface of the third volume, 20 und 4 Annehmlichkeiten, is dated “Heumonat [July] 1788.”
The glass harmonica, an invention of Benjamin Franklin, enjoyed a vogue in Europe during the last third of the eighteenth century; it was considered by many the instrument closest to the human voice, and seen by some as an idealization of it (see Dolan 2013, 61–65). The glass harmonica was introduced to Vienna by Marianne Davies, who resided in the city with her younger sister, the soprano Cecilia Davies, from around 1768 to 1770; they are said to have performed several times for Empress Maria Theresia. The Davies sisters were the soloists in a cantata, L’armonica (“Ah perché col canto mio”) composed by Hasse (to a text by Metastasio) for the 1769 wedding of Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria with Ferdinand, Duke of Parma (for more on the Davies sisters and this cantata, see our entry for 2 Mar 1771).
Another prominent early player of the glass harmonica, Phillip Joseph Frick, performed on the instrument at concerts in Vienna on 1 and 5 May 1772 (Morrow 1989, 241). In the summer of the following year, Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart heard the glass harmonica in Vienna at the house of Franz Anton Mesmer, as Leopold reports in letters to his wife dated 21 Jul and 12 Aug 1773:
H: v Messmer, wo wir am Montage speisten, spielte uns auf der Harmonica, oder dem GlasInstrument der Miss Devis, und recht gut! es hat ihn das Instrument bey 50 duccatten gekostet: dann es ist recht schön gemacht. (Briefe, i:484, 21 Jul 1773)
Herr von Mesmer, where we dined on Monday [19 Jul], played for us on the harmonica, the glass instrument of Miss Davies, and quite well! The instrument cost him around 50 ducats, for it is quite beautifully made.
weist du das der H: v Messmer recht gut die Harmonica der Miß Devis spielt? er ist der einzige der es in Wienn gelernt hat, und hat eine viel schönere Gläser Machine als die Miß Devis hatte. der Wolfg: hat auch schon darauf gespielt, wenn wir nur eine hätten. (Briefe, i:486, 12 Aug 1773)
Did you know that Herr von Mesmer plays Miss Davies’ harmonica quite well? He is the only one in Vienna who has learned it, and he has a much more beautiful glass apparatus than Miss Davies had. Wolfgang has also already played on it; if only we had one.
Little seems to be known, however, about the glass harmonica in Vienna in the 1780s, and it is not immediately obvious why Perinet would have referred to it in 1787. The next documented performances on the instrument in Vienna following those in the early 1770s took place in 1791. On 2 Apr 1791 Carl Leopold Röllig (ca. 1745–1804) played the glass harmonica at a concert given for his own benefit in the Burgtheater (WZ, Sat, 26 Mar 1791; Morrow 1989, 276). In the mid 1780s Röllig had invented a glass harmonica operated by a keyboard mechanism, and it is probably on this instrument that he performed in the Burgtheater. He had also published a pamphlet on the glass harmonica in 1787, Über die Harmonika, the title page of which shows a glass harmonica with a keyboard. (On Röllig’s compositions for the glass harmonica, see the Notes below.)
The following month, composer Vincenz Maschek and his wife Johanna included a glass harmonica at their concert in the Burgtheater on 21 May 1791 (see Morrow 1989, 278, where the date of the concert is given incorrectly as 21 Mar), and in June the celebrated blind virtuosa Marianne Kirchgessner (1769–1808) gave the first of (at least) three concerts in Vienna on the glass harmonica; her second concert, on 19 Aug, featured Mozart’s newly composed Adagio and Rondo for Glass Harmonica, Flute, Oboe, Viola, and Cello, K. 617 (on Kirchgessner’s concerts in 1791, see Morrow 1989, 278).
Although there are currently no documented performances in Vienna on the glass harmonica between the early 1770s and 1791, the instrument did occasionally turn up in advertisements in the Wiener Zeitung in the 1780s (see, for example, Schmittbauer’s advertisement for his glass harmonica on 26 Jun 1784, and Görner’s advertisements on 12 Apr 1786 and 26 Dec 1787). Given these advertisements and Perinet’s reference to the instrument in 1787, it seems likely that the glass harmonica continued to be cultivated in Vienna during the 1780s, even if no performances are currently known. At any rate, Perinet presumably expected his readers to have sufficient knowledge of the instrument to understand his joke.
Perinet uses the glass harmonica and Mozart’s fortepiano as ironic foils for the “concert” of the coppersmiths in Naglergasse, compared with which (he writes) the glass harmonica and Mozart’s fortepiano sound like a “hölzernes Gelächter.” The term “hölzernes Gelächter” (in a wide variety of spellings) refers to the xylophone, at that time still primarily a folk instrument. It was also known as a “Holzspiel” or “Strohfiedel” (“straw fiddle”), the last because it typically consisted of four rows of wooden bars laid across ropes of twisted straw that lifted the bars and allowed them to resonate. The word “Gelächter” means “laughter,” and “hölzernes Gelächter” would probably have been understood by Perinet’s readers as implying “wooden laughter,” although “Gelächter” in the name of the instrument may ultimately derive from a different root, the dialect word “glächel” or “klachel,” meaning “Klöppel,” the striker used when playing the instrument (Sachs 1920, 20).
The instrument with four rows of bars is still sometimes used in folk music today, and is typically played (as it probably was in Perinet’s day) with wooden strikers that create a clattering percussive sound.
Although mainly a folk instrument, the hölzernes Gelächter began occasionally to appear in composed music in the late eighteenth century. In the first-act quintet of Die Zauberflöte (no. 5), the original printed libretto says that the First Lady gives Papageno “eine Maschine wie ein hölzernes Gelächter” (“an apparatus like a hölzernes Gelächter”). Mozart’s autograph, on the other hand, says “giebt ihm ein stählnes Gelächter,” which can be translated as “gives him a steel xylophone”—in other words, what we now call a glockenspiel (on this passage, see Powley 2004, 94ff; see also Orel 1959, 50–51). But the reference in the libretto suggests that the original idea may have been to use a wooden xylophone. The hölzernes Gelächter appears in the first-act finale of Müller and Perinet’s Die Schwestern von Prag, and in Georg Druschetzky’s Parthia auf Bauerninstrumenten (Partita on Farmers’ Instruments), where it is referred to as a “Klachter” (H-Bn, Ms. Mus. 1569; Powley 1996).
Empress Marie Therese, the second wife of Emperor Franz II (I), apparently played the hölzernes Gelächter. In the late 1790s, the Viennese musician Ignaz Schweigl (d. 1803) composed several pieces for Franz and Marie Therese that included parts for Holzspiel (as Schweigl generally called it), and the dedications on some of these make clear that the Holzspiel parts were intended for the empress. Schweigl’s “Pastorale Duetto Concerto” in C Major for Holzspiel and violin from 1798 is dedicated to Marie Therese on her name day, 15 Oct; the two solo parts, however, carry separate dedications: the solo violin to Franz on his name day (4 Oct) and the Holzspiel to Marie Therese on hers (the concerto is in A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 11096; a facsimile of the main title page is given as Fig. 6.7 in Rice 2003, 142). Schweigl also dedicated another duet concerto for violin and Holzspiel to the imperial couple, this one in G major, likewise with separate dedications to the emperor and empress on their respective solo parts (A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 11095). Among Schweigl’s other works for Holzspiel are a Sextet in D (A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 11408; see Rice 2003, 141) and a Septet in D for violin, Holzspiel, harp, piccolo, shawm, tambourine, and cello (A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 11396); the septet is a fantasia on the glockenspiel music in the Act I finale of Die Zauberflöte (Powley 1996). Marie Therese’s music collection also includes works for hölzernes Gelächter by other composers: a set of variations by Paul Wranitzky on “Ach du lieber Augustin” for 2 violins, cello, drum, cymbals, and hölzernes Gelächter (A-Wn, Mus. Hs. 11375, with a facsimile of the parts), and three pieces by Ferdinand Kauer (see Rice 2003, 141).
Archduke Franz (his title at the time) and Marie Therese married in 1790, so the pieces composed for her to play on the Holzspiel or hölzernes Gelächter were almost certainly composed after that date. What, then, would Perinet have had in mind when he referred to the instrument in 1787? It may be that the hölzernes Gelächter was often played by dance and folk musicians in Viennese taverns and the like, and was common enough that Perinet could assume his readers understood the reference. But at least one piece of anecdotal evidence suggests that Archduke Franz himself may have played the hölzernes Gelächter while living in Vienna in the 1780s. (Franz’s father Leopold was Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his family consequently lived in Florence. Franz was living in Vienna at the behest of his uncle Joseph II, who expected Franz to succeed him and therefore wanted to supervise his education.) Rice (2003, 143) points to the following anecdote in the Beytrag zur Characteristik und Regierungs=Geschichte der Kaiser Josephs II. Leopolds II. und Franz II. (Paris 1799/1800, published anonymously, but attributed to the Austrian journalist Franz Xaver Huber):
[...] Eine auswärtige Zeitung enthielt die Nachricht: daß der Erzherzog sich mit seiner Gemahlinn durch eine Cammermusik täglich Abends die Zeit verkürzte, wobey die Erzherzoginn die große Baßgeige, der Erzherzog aber die sogenannte Holzfidel, oder wie man es zu Wien benennet: das hölzerne Gelächter spielte. [...] [Beytrag, 188–89]
[...] A foreign newspaper reported that the Archduke whiled away the evenings each day in chamber music with his spouse, in which the Archduchess played the great bass fiddle, and he the so-called “Holzfidel,” or as it is called in Vienna, “das hölzerne Gelächter.” [translation by DE]
The anecdote goes on to say that Franz, feeling that the story did not reflect well on him, complained to Count Cobenzl (presumably Vice Chancellor Philipp Count Cobenzl) about the newspaper’s presumption in publishing it, asking Cobenzl to reprimand the editor; the anecdote does not say, however, that Franz denied the story. The Archduchess in the anecdote would have been Franz’s first wife, Elisabeth of Württemberg. Franz and Elisabeth married in 1788, the year after the publication of Perinet’s 29 Annehmlichkeiten, but she had been living in Vienna since 1782, when Joseph brought her to the city to be educated into her future roles as Franz’s wife and presumptive empress (although she did not live to fill this latter role). So it is entirely possible that Franz and Elisabeth sometimes made music together before their marriage. Although the question needs further research, it is conceivable that Franz had a special affection for the hölzernes Gelächter, that he may have played it himself, and that Perinet’s Viennese readers might have been expected to know this.
Joachim Perinet was baptized in Vienna on 20 Oct 1763 as “Maria, Joachimus, Joannes Baptista, Petrus Alcantara, Ferdinandus Felicianus”, an imposing phalanx of saintly names, as if his parents were trying to hedge their bets—which they may well have been: only one other sibling is known to have survived to adulthood, a sister Maria.
His father, Joachim Benedikt Perinet, whose family came from Savoy, was a businessman, reputedly a successful one. Early biographies depict his son Joachim as poorly educated, but this notion—as with much of the negative gossip about Perinet repeated throughout the secondary literature—seems to derive mainly from a biography of Perinet’s first wife published in the Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode in 1827 by Joseph Sonnleithner, whose extremely negative portrayal of Perinet is clearly driven by personal animosity (see Sonnleithner 1827, and the discussion below). In fact, nothing specific is known about Perinet’s education, although his predilection for French and Latin epigraphs and phrases in his writings (he even published a poem in Latin, Hungariae insurrectioni, in 1809), his (reputed) translations and adaptations from French, his references to Greek and Roman mythology, and the wide range of literary and intellectual targets in his satire and parody suggest a better education than most of his early biographers assumed (on Perinet’s knowledge of French and Latin, see Gugitz 1904, 176). On the other hand, his formal education was not on the level of Sonnleithner’s (on Sonnleithner’s education, see Walther 1836, 109–10).
In the summer of 1781, when Perinet was just 17, he, together with Franz Xaver Gewey (also 17) and Johann Michael Ahlen, led an amateur theater group in a season of plays performed for free at the Theater zum Weißen Fasan (the Fasantheater) in the Viennese suburb of Neustift (Gugitz 1925, 109). According to a retrospective description of the group published in 1794 (possibly also written by Sonnleithner), its emphasis was on serious theater:
Keine niedrig komischen Stücke aufzuführen, hatte sie sich schon damahls zum unverbrüchligen Gesetze gemacht, welches sie auch bis zu ihrer Auflösung immerfort beobachtete. Man gab kein Stück, das nicht schon auf dem Nationaltheater aufgeführt worden war; feinen Conversationsstücken und Trauerspilen gab man den Vorzug. Unter den letzteren waren Hamlet, Emilia Gallotti, und Adelstan. [“Nachricht von Privattheatern,” 44]
At that time they made it an unbreakable rule, which they observed continually until their company dissolved, not to perform any low comic plays. No play was given that had not already been performed in the Nationaltheater; fine “conversation pieces” [social dramas] and tragedies were preferred. Among the latter were Hamlet, [Lessing’s] Emilia Galotti, and Adelstan [perhaps Johann Friedrich Schink’s Adelstan und Röschen, which had not, in fact, been performed by the Nationaltheater].
Given that Perinet’s later written output was (apart from a few patriotic, political, and sentimental poems) entirely comic, his early experience with serious drama is illuminating. When Perinet later wrote a parody of Hamlet for the Theater in der Leopoldstadt (Hamlet. Eine Karrikatur in drey Aufzügen mit Gesang in Knittelreimen, 1807), he may well have known the original tragedy (in one of its German translations) from the inside, as a performer. The amateur group gave a second season in the Fasantheater in the summer of 1782 (Gugitz 1925, 110).
Perinet made his debut as an actor in the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 19 Jul 1785 in the role of Wilhelm Mauser, the student in Paul Weidmann’s Der Bettelstudent, oder das Donnerwetter (Gugitz 1904, 180), and he continued to take occasional roles there (apparently unpaid) in the second half of the 1780s. Perinet’s mother died on 3 Jul 1786 in the suburb of Landstrasse (WZ, 8 Jul 1786, 1623). On 4 Feb 1788 he married Anna (Marianne) Gansch (b. 1769), whom he seems to have known from the amateur theatrical group.
The marriage is often said to have been unhappy: Perinet is said to have been Anna’s second choice, after a previous love affair had been forcibly broken off by the young man’s family, with the help of Count Zinzendorf, Anna’s father’s employer. The young man is even said to have been sent away from Vienna for a time to keep the two separated. Perinet, whose proposal (so the story goes) Anna quickly and rashly accepted in the aftermath, is said to have been a neglectful husband whose spendthrift ways left the pair continually short of money.
This story has been repeated often in the secondary literature. Its original source—although this has apparently not previously been recognized—is Sonnleithner’s 1827 biography of Anna Perinet. Wurzbach, who repeats the story of the broken-off love affair nearly verbatim from Sonnleithner’s biography, worked from a manuscript copy that did not identify its author or source. Gustav Gugitz consulted the same manuscript copy in Wurzbach’s estate (in what is now the Wienbibliothek), and likewise did not know that Sonnleithner was the author. But Gugitz plausibly suggested that the author of the biography might himself have been the young man in the story (Gugitz 1904, 182).
Although the case is still speculative, the circumstantial evidence is consistent with Gugitz’s guess. Joseph Sonnleithner (1766-1835) was a son of the prominent jurist (and amateur composer) Christoph Sonnleithner, who almost certainly would have found Anna Gansch, the daughter of a servant of Count Zinzendorf, an unacceptable match for his son. Joseph Sonnleithner, who was close to Anna in age, certainly knew both Anna and Perinet personally; by his own account Sonnleithner knew her from the amateur theatrical scene in Vienna, in which he also participated. Sonnleithner’s first position in the Habsburg bureaucracy, taken up around 1784, was as an official in the Kreisamt of the Viertel unter dem Wiener Wald in Traiskirchen—not terribly far from Vienna, to be sure, but perhaps just far enough to suggest that his position there might have been chosen to keep him separated from Anna while not overly disturbing the trajectory of his future career (on Sonnleithner’s early years, see primarily Walther 1836, 110; see also Brandtner 2014 and Wurzbach). He returned to Vienna in 1787 (thus not long before Anna’s marriage to Perinet) to take up a position in the emperor’s administration. Sonnleithner also tells us that Anna called him to her deathbed (she died in 1798), in order to entrust to him poems that she had been writing in secret throughout her life; he published six of these poems at the end of his biography. This deathbed scene alone suggests an exceptionally close relationship between the two, and the fervor of Sonnleithner’s prose in his descriptions of Anna gives the impression of a man in love, even at a remove of nearly 40 years. A frustrated romantic relationship between Anna and Joseph would also help explain Joseph’s evident animosity toward Perinet, particularly if he felt (as he clearly did) that Perinet’s treatment of Anna and their (according to Sonnleithner) chronic lack of money had contributed to her ill health and early death. These circumstances also help explain why Sonnleithner waited until 29 years after Anna’s death and 11 years after Perinet’s to publish the biography. (He notes that he is publishing the biography precisely as many years after Anna’s death as she herself had lived, as if he felt the timing in itself was a memorial to her.) One possible caveat is that Anna Gansch would have been quite young: she was only 18 when she married Perinet, and would have been just 14 or 15 in 1784, when Sonnleithner went to Traiskirchen. Even if Sonnleithner’s story refers to a time much closer to that of her marriage with Perinet, she would have been only 17 or 18. On the other hand, her young age does not rule out intense love, on either her part or Sonnleithner's. On balance, then, it seems likely that Sonnleithner was writing about himself in the story of the thwarted love affair. Sonnleithner eventually married Johanna Wilhelmine Mariboe in Copenhagen in 1801 (Walther 1836, 111).
Although Gugitz did not know that Sonnleither was the author of the biography of Anna Perinet, he realized that the author was strongly biased, and thus probably not a reliable witness (although this did not stop him from plagiarizing much of Sonnleithner’s article; on this point, see below). He also suggested that the history of Perinet’s relationship with Anna might have been more complicated than it was portrayed in the biography. Gugitz pointed to three early poems by Perinet, the earliest from 1784 (perhaps not coincidentally the year that Sonnleithner seems to have gone to Traiskirchen), in which the writer refers lovingly to his “Nannetchen,” quite possibly (Gugitz suggested) meaning Anna, and thus perhaps indicating a longer romantic history than Sonnleithner’s story would suggest (Gugitz 1904, 184). For his part, Perinet remembered Anna fondly enough to have her appear as a character in his Der Altenweibersommer im Tartarus (1806) and Der Jahrmarkt in der Unterwelt (1806), the fifth and sixth installments of his Gespräche im Reiche der Todten (edited in Gugitz 1920, 201–237)—and one suspects that this, too, would have irritated Sonnleithner.
Perinet’s first known dramatic work, Drei Weiber um einen Mann (apparently lost), premiered at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 12 Oct 1789. In 1790 the theater engaged him as a writer; in 1791 he had a substantial hit there with his libretto for Wenzel Müller, Der Fagottist, oder die Zauberzither (which Mozart attended but apparently thought little of). Perinet was engaged as an actor at the theater in 1791, and Anna was also engaged there as an actress, making her debut on 3 Nov 1791, although she seems thereafter to have appeared only rarely (Gugitz 1904, 188). Perinet continued to appear on stage throughout his career, but his reputation as an actor was never better than mixed. As a writer for the Theater in der Leopoldstadt, however, Perinet had considerable success in the mid 1790s, with such notable hits as Das neue Sonntagskind (adapted from Hafner’s Der Furchtsame, 1793) and Die Schwestern von Prag (adapted from Hafner’s Die reisenden Komödianten, 1794), both with music by Müller; in all, Perinet wrote or adapted 37 known works for the Theater in der Leopoldstadt during his first engagement there. In 1797, Perinet had a serious falling out with the theater’s director Karl Marinelli, who fired him. The following year, Perinet was engaged as a writer and actor by Emanuel Schikaneder at the Theater auf der Wieden; his debut work there was Orion oder der Fürst und sein Hofnarr, which premiered on 8 Jan 1798; Perinet appeared in a part he had written for himself. Perinet’s wife Anna died on 20 Sep 1798, at the age of just 29 (WZ, 29 Sep 1798, 2949). His father died on 25 Jun 1801 in Landstrasse at age 85 (WZ, 1 Jul 1801, 2380); the date of the father’s death seems not to have been previously noted in the literature on Perinet.
Perinet remained with Schikaneder until 1803; after Marinelli’s death that year, the Theater in der Leopoldstadt was taken over by Karl Friedrich Hensler (1759–1825; on Hensler, see also our entry for 5 Oct 1791). Perinet soon began a renewed engagement there, making his first appearance as a writer with Ariadne auf Naxos. Travestiert on 27 Oct 1803, and his first as an actor on 8 Nov in his own Orions Rückkehr zur friedlichen Insel, with music by Wenzel Müller. Just a few months earlier, on 17 May 1803, Perinet had married his second wife, the Paris-born actress Victoire Vamy (also Victoria, Viktorie, Wammy, Wamy, Wami, b. 1781), whose stage name was Sommer. As Michael Lorenz has shown, in 1801 Vamy bore an illegitimate daughter, Eleonora, to whom Schikaneder’s wife Eleonore stood as godmother (Lorenz 2008, 29–30, and Tabelle 1 on 25); the father is unknown, but as Lorenz points out, Schikaneder and Perinet are both plausible candidates. Vamy made her debut in the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 21 Oct 1803, although she seems not to have remained with that theater for long; she later appeared at the Theater an der Wien in 1806, 1809–1810, and 1812–1815 (Gugitz 1904, 200–201). She apparently stopped living with Perinet at some point, and she notoriously became the mistress of the Russian general Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov (Gugitz 1904, 201, n. 2, and Lorenz 2008, 29).
Perinet remained associated with the Theater in der Leopoldstadt for the rest of his life, apart from a relatively short stint in Brünn in 1807 with Schikaneder, and perhaps also (as Gugitz has suggested) in 1806 in the same theater under its previous director (Gugitz 1904, 211). Perinet’s later theatrical works tended increasingly to parody and travesty, in such works as Ariadne auf Naxos. Travestirt (1803), Der travestierte Telemach (1804), Die neue Alzeste (1806), Hamlet. Eine Karrikatur in drey Aufzügen mit Gesang in Knittelreimen (1807), and Der Baum der Diana, a parody of L’arbore di Diana (1813). Perinet’s local reputation as a writer may have declined in his later years; his caricature opera Pumphia und Kulikan (8 Oct 1808) was literally hissed off the stage (Gugitz 1904, 213–14). However, Perinet enjoyed a late flowering of recognition as both writer and actor during the Congress of Vienna in 1815, from his appearance as Baumschnabel in a revival at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt of his Die Belagerung von Ypsilon, oder Evakathel und Schnudi (premiered 1804), which was said to have been attended repeatedly by such visiting heads of state at the king of Prussia and the Russian czar (Gugitz 1904, 217–18).
Perinet died in the Viennese suburb of Leopoldstadt on 4 Feb 1816, at the age of 52, on the twenty-eighth anniversary of his marriage to Anna Gansch, and the day after the premiere of his final completed work, Dragon, der Hund des Aubri, oder: der Wienerwald. He is not known to have had any children, and no images of him are known to survive. However, he left a humorously self-deprecating portrait of himself as a young man in the final “Annehmlichkeit” of the third volume of that series (20 und 4 Annehmlichkeiten in Wien, 60–61):
Vier u. zwanzigste Annehmlichkeit.
“Amor incipit ab Ego” und man
wird es mir daher nicht verargen, wenn
ich mich aus Egoismus am Ende selbst
als eine Annehmlichkeit seze, da mich mei=
ne Feinde zur Aergerniß ausgeschrien
Uiberhaupt bin ich ein wahrer Nar=
siß, und will Ihnen meine Schönheiten
deutlich schildern, also hören Sie.
“Ich bin ein Mensch von 25 Jah=
,, ren, mein Obertheil ist länger als der
,, untere, mein Nase ist lang und dik NB.
,, Haar und Bart schwarz, meine Stim=
,, me lallend, und meine Augen — — ?
,, ja die hat noch niemand gesehen, weil
,, ich mich niemanden ins Gesicht zu se=,
, hen unterstehe. Aus meiner Phisiogno=
,, mie stralt Dummheit und Tüke, und
,, ich bin mit einem Wort ein rechter
,, s. v. Knüppel. Uibrigens bin ich ein Pri=
,, vatkommödiant, der alles zusammen=
,, spielt, und ein Broschürenschmidt, des=
,, sen Werke (Gott sey den Annehmlich=
,, keiten gnädig!) die Käsestecher verle=,
, gen*) ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! . . . . . . . . . . . .
…………………………………… &c. &c.
*) Meine Kritiker haben (was ich fast nicht
glauben kann) vermuthlich mit ihrem Mit=
tagmahl ein Blatt davon erhalten, und um
diese Zeit war es eben, wo Sie mich als Bet=
telstudent um die Pastete beneideten.
A. d. V.
[Anmerkung des Verfassers]
“Amor incipit ab Ego” [Love starts with oneself]
and it will therefore not be taken amiss if
from egotism I place myself at the end
as an amenity, since my enemies have
lambasted me as a nuisance.
In general, I am a real Narcissus,
and want to portray my beauties
clearly, so listen:
“I am a man of 25 years, my
upper part is longer than my lower,
my nose is long and fat NB.
Hair and beard black, my voice
babbling, and my eyes — — ?
Well no one has seen these yet,
because I dare look no one in
the face. Stupidity and deceit radiate
from my physiognomy, and I am
in a word, quite a s. v. cudgel.
In addition, I am a self-employed
actor, who plays everything together,
and a brochure-smith, whose work
(God bless the Amenities!) the
cheese merchants publish *) ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !”
*) My critics (I can scarcely believe it)
probably received a page of it with their
midday meal, and it was just at this time
that you begrudged me, a starving student,
Note by the Author
(Perinet’s reference to himself in the first sentence as an “Aergerniß” —a “nuisance” or “annoyance”—is also an allusion to his earlier set of three short books, Ärgernisse in Wien, published in 1786. In July 1788, the date of the preface to 20 und 4 Annehmlichkeiten, Perinet was still technically only 24 years old, not 25. According to Grimm (sense 4), the word “Knüppel” (cudgel, club) is attested in some dialects with the meaning of a coarse fat person. Perinet’s “s. v.” probably means “sub verbo,” as if he is asking his readers to look up “Knüppel” in a dictionary. Perinet had made his debut at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt in 1785 in the title role of Weidmann’s Der Bettelstudent.)
Throughout the secondary literature, Perinet is portrayed as a reckless spendthrift (the word “leichtsinnig” recurs frequently), continually in dire financial straits brought about by having squandered his inheritance, and continuing thereafter to spend extravagantly and thoughtlessly. That he was often hard up for money in the later years of his life seems to be supported by at least some primary evidence: several of his surviving letters (most undated, but probably relatively late) are appeals for money (the known letters are in the Wienbibliothek; for partial transcriptions, see Großauer-Zöbinger).
However, the central anecdote in the portrayal of Perinet as chronically impecunious comes from Sonnleithner’s tendentious biography of Perinet’s first wife Anna. Although the anecdote is often repeated as fact (even though its source has been unknown until now), there is good reason to treat it with considerable skepticism—and not just because of Sonnleithner’s evident animus. Here is the story as Sonnleithner tells it:
Kaum verheiratet [the reference is to Anna], fing Perinet auch schon an, seine Frau zu vernachlässigen. Um diese Zeit starb sein Vater, und hinterließ ihm und seiner Schwester ein kleines Haus in der Stadt. Perinet machte sogleich Anstalten, es zu veräußern, und er konnte kaum erwarten, seinen Antheil in den Händen zu haben, der in sechstausend Gulden in Gold bestand. Der erste Tag des Besitzes war auch der Anfang der zügellosesten Verschwendung. Als Augenzeuge kann ich berichten, daß er täglich des Morgens ein Sümmchen Ducaten, das für den Tag ausreichen mochte, in die Tasche steckte, und nicht eher nach Hause kam, bis die Summe verschwendet war. Es war ein so wilder Drang, das Geld los zu werden, in ihm, daß er, wenn Magen und Gurgel ihren Dienst versagen wollten, noch spät des Abends ein große Düten mit Zuckerwerk kaufte, und es unter die Gassenjungen vertheilte. Er schaffte sich eine schöne Garderobe, eine Bibliothek ohne Wahl, aber keine Wäsche an. Nach ungefähr sechs Wochen war sein Geld bis auf den letzten Groschen versplittert, die Bücher wurden verschleudert, die Kleider verkauft, und in der siebenten Woche ersuchte er schon einen Freund schriftlich um ein Hemd. Er war zu blöde, um je ein mündliches Ansuchen zu stellen. Er brachte Stunden mit manchem Bekannten im sorglosesten Muthwillen zu, und kaum hatte ihn dieser verlassen, so schrieb er ihm schon einen kläglichen Bettelbrief, sehr oft in Versen. Solche Briefe hielt er für unwiderstehlich, und sie thaten auch größten Theils gut Wirkung. [Sonnleithner 1827, 1180–81]
Just barely married, Perinet already began to neglect his wife. Around this time his father died, leaving him and his sister a small house in the city. Perinet immediately got ready to sell it, and he could scarcely wait to get his hands on his portion, which amounted to six thousand gulden in gold. [This implies payment in gold ducats.] The first day he had them was the beginning of the most extravagant wastefulness. As an eyewitness I can report that every day in the morning he would put a tidy sum of ducats in his pocket that might last for the day, and did not come home again until the sum was squandered. There was in him such a savage drive to be rid of money, that when his stomach and gullet were not up the task, even late in the evening he would buy a large bag of sweetmeats and distribute them amongst the street urchins. He got himself a pretty wardrobe and an indiscriminate library, but no linens. After approximately six weeks his money was frittered away to the last groschen, the books gone for a song, the clothing sold, and in the seventh week he wrote to a friend requesting a shirt. He was too foolish ever to make a verbal request. He would spend hours with some acquaintance in the most heedless wantonness, and scarcely had he left the person, he would write him a plaintive begging letter, very often in verse. He considered such letters to be irresistible, and for the most part they had the desired effect.
Wurzbach reproduces this passage word for word, with only a handful of minor changes; he gives it without quotes, thus failing to make clear that the words are not his own—although he does at least interject at one point the comment “Herausgeber dieses Lexikons schöpft aus Aufzeichnungen von Perinet’s erster Frau” (“the editor of this dictionary draws on the notes about Perinet’s first wife”; the ambiguous “von” may easily suggest to the unwary reader that Wurzbach is drawing on notes by Perinet’s wife, rather than to notes about her). Gugitz, in his 1904 article, cites the manuscript of these same “notes” in Wurzbach’s estate, and he explicitly quotes a few short phrases from them. But he gives the impression that the rest of his discussion of Anna Gansch and of Perinet’s alleged profligacy is written in his own words. In fact Gugitz, like Wurzbach, had reproduced verbatim or with only slight modification long passages that ultimately came from Sonnleithner’s biography (Gugitz 1904, 182–86). By current standards, then, Wurzbach’s and Gugitz’s use of this source would count as plagiarism.
The story that Perinet inherited and squandered 6000 gulden from his father is reproduced in condensed form in Franz Brümmer’s article on Perinet in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (which is a summary of Wurzbach). Stefan Jordan’s article on Perinet in Neue Deutsche Biographie, summarizes the story in one sentence, omitting the father and the amount: “Durch die Verschwendung seines Erbes mittellos geworden, nahm er hier 1790 eine Beschäftigung als Theaterschriftsteller…” (“Made penniless by squandering his inheritance, in 1790 [Perinet] took up a position here as a writer for the theater…”; in the previous sentence Jordan has incorrectly placed Perinet in the Theater in der Josefstadt, not the Theater in der Leopoldstadt). Thomas Bauman, in his very brief biography of Perinet at Grove Online, repeats the essentials as summarized by Brümmer: “Born into a wealthy merchant family, as a young man he received a poor education, frequented Vienna’s taverns, and on his father’s death squandered an inheritance of 6000 gulden in six weeks” (Bauman 2016). Peter Branscombe, in his article on Perinet at Grove Online, compresses the story to “He swiftly squandered a sizeable inheritance…”, like Jordan omitting the father and the amount. All of these portrayals ultimately derive (although the authors were evidently not aware of it) from Sonnleithner’s biography of Anna Perinet, via Wurzbach’s anonymous manuscript copy.
As a witness, Sonnleithner is unquestionably strongly biased and unreliable, but there is also a fundamental factual problem with his story. He tells this story in the context of explaining why Perinet and Anna were in such dire financial straits that they had to take paying engagements at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt (a place beneath contempt from Sonnleithner’s point of view as a protector of “serious” German theater). But Perinet’s father died in 1801, nearly three years after Anna’s death; thus whatever Perinet may have inherited from his father is irrelevant to the financial circumstances of Perinet and his first wife. Gugitz evidently recognized that the story of the “squandered inheritance” probably could not apply to the father (whose date of death he did not know and could not find in 1904), so he silently changed “father” to “mother”; this at least made chronological sense, since Perinet’s mother died in 1786. Gugitz was able to adduce one bit of new evidence: the archival record of the mother’s estate, which (Gugitz says) shows that she owned a house in the suburb of Penzing (thus not “in der Stadt” as in Sonnleithner’s story). He implies, but does not state, that this is the house in which Perinet inherited a stake, and he retains the figure of “6000 gulden,” without, however, providing any archival documentation that Perinet actually inherited the house, that this was the value of his stake, or that Perinet sold the stake if he had one. Nor did Gugitz provide any documentation of when Perinet is supposed to have received the money.
Großauer-Zöbinger quotes a portion of the “squandered inheritance” story from Wurzbach, but follows (and cites) Gugitz in shifting the alleged source of the inheritance from the father to the mother (although she does not mention the change; Großauer-Zöbinger, 5). Leslie Bodi (1977), likewise relying on Gugitz for the year, writes: “als [Perinet] im Jahre 1786 eine bedeutende Erbschaft machte, verschleuderte er das Geld in sechs Wochen” (“when in 1786 [Perinet] received a substantial inheritance, he squandered it in six weeks”).
The point of tracing the genealogy of this story is not to prove that Perinet was not a spendthrift; it is quite possible that he was. Castelli says so in his memoirs, vol. I, 112); and in the years 1798 and 1799, Perinet was the target of several suits for the collection of unpaid debts by, among others, Ferdinand Kauer and Jacob Haibel (personal communication from Michael Lorenz; these suits have yet to be comprehensively investigated). So it is entirely possible that Perinet tended to squander money. Our aim here is to show that the story of the inheritance cannot be taken as fact on the basis of the single biased and inaccurate source from which it derives. The serious archival work for a new and reliable biography of Perinet remains to be done.
The most complete bibliography of Perinet’s writings is apparently still the chronological list given by Gugitz at the end of his 1905 article on the author’s poetry and prose (Gugitz 1905, 164–69).
How one counts Perinet’s theatrical works depends on how theatrical works are defined; Perinet published several works in a theatrical format (such as Mozart und Schikaneder and Der Weyland Casperl) that were probably not intended for the stage. Gugitz sensibly places these among Perinet’s poetical works, not his theatrical ones. Using that definition, Gugitz lists 111 works by Perinet that are known to have been staged. Großauer-Zöbinger (7, note 52) adds two more to the list, and subtracts one, thus leaving a total of 112. This figure represents an average of more than four works per year across the span of Perinet’s theatrical career, 1789–1816; his most productive years were 1798, 1804, and 1812, in each of which he produced nine new works for the theater.
Not all of these works were entirely original: many are singspiel libretti adapted from comic plays by Philipp Hafner (1735–1764) or other authors, and others are said to be adaptations from French originals and the like. Even so, Perinet by any estimation produced a formidable body of theatrical work, and one that has not yet been adequately evaluated in the published literature. Taking Großauer-Zöbinger’s updates into account, 37 of Perinet’s works were staged at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt during his first engagement there (1790–1797), 20 during his engagement at Schikaneder’s Theater auf der Wieden and its successor the Theater an der Wien (1798–1803), and 55 during Perinet’s second engagement at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt (1803–1816). His first known theatrical work, Drei Weiber um einen Mann, oder Nichts weniger als una cosa rara, premiered in the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 12 Oct 1789; it is apparently lost, but its title certainly refers to Martín y Soler’s opera Una cosa rara, which premiered in the Burgtheater in 1786; in 1789 the opera was at the beginning of a successful revival that eventually lasted until 1791. Perinet’s second theatrical work, and the first to be published, was the farce Der lizitierte Bräutigam, oder Die Großmama wider ihren Willen, “nach dem Französisch,” which premiered in the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 23 Oct 1789. His last completed work was Dragon, der Hund des Aubri, oder: der Wienerwald. Histerisch[sic]-romantisch-komisches Drama mit Musik in 2 Aufzügen, und einem Prologe als Parodie, in Knittelreimen, with music by Wenzel Müller, which premiered in the same theater on 3 Feb 1816, the day before Perinet died. Not all of Perinet’s theatrical works are known to survive, but a large proportion of them do. The Wienbibliothek possesses what may be the largest collection of Perinet’s published works for the theater, but these are unfortunately not yet available online in digital copies. The ÖNB also has a large collection of Perinet’s published writings; many of the items from that collection are available on Google Books, as well as through the library’s website. (The library often offers a color facsimile where Google Books has only black and white.)
Perinet was by all accounts a gifted improviser of verse, and in addition to the verse incorporated into his libretti, he published poetry throughout his career. The only serious study of Perinet’s poetry is still Gugitz (1905). Many (although not all) of Perinet’s published collections of poetry and some longer individual poems are now available online in digitized copies, waiting to serve as the foundation of a comprehensive reassessment. Early in his career Perinet also published individual poems in the Wienerblättchen and other periodicals, and many of these volumes are also now available online. Six poems by Perinet with musical settings by Friedrich Satzenhoven were published by Gombart in Augsburg; the date of publication is unknown, but Satzenhoven was responsible for the music of Die travestirte Ariadne auf Naxos in 1799 and its revision in 1803; Perinet was certainly responsible for the text of the revision, may also have been the adapter of the original version in 1799 (see Feurzeig & Sienicki 2008).
In 1801, Perinet published an imaginary conversation in verse between Mozart and Schikaneder regarding the new production of Die Zauberflöte in the “Stadttheater” in Vienna (the Kärntnertortheater): Mozart und Schikaneder. Ein theatralisches Gespräch über die Aufführung der Zauberflöte im Stadttheater (1801). This work has recently been published in transcription with an English translation and a somewhat error-prone introduction (Mueller 2012). A number of sequels followed, at least two of which are attributed to Perinet. Gugitz and the library catalogs of the ÖNB and the Wienbibliothek all attribute to Perinet the anonymous Jupiter, Mozart und Schikaneder. Nach der ersten Vorstellung der Zauberflöte im neuen Theater an der Wien (1802), and he is certainly also the author of the Theatralisches Gespräch zwischen Mozart und Schikaneder über den Verkauf des Theaters (1802; not yet available digitally; see the catalog record for the exemplar in the the ÖNB; see also Wienbibliothek, A-17880). Gugitz also attributes to Perinet two new texts written to be sung to the melody of “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja”: Neues Lied auf die bekannte Melodie: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja: zum 12 März 1801 and Neues Lied auf die bekannte Melodie: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja: zum 13. Juni 1802. Gugitz lists both as lost, but these titles seem to match items published in facsimile in Wunderlich, Ueberschlag & Müller (2007, 179–85), based on exemplars in the Wienbibliothek. Both are attributed unequivocally on their title pages to Schikaneder, and there seems to be no reason to think that Perinet had anything to do with them.
Perinet’s published prose works, including the three books of Annehmlichkeiten, almost exclusively stem from the earliest years of his career, before he began writing for the theater (on Perinet’s prose works, see Gugitz 1905; for a detailed and complimentary assessment, see Bodi 1977, 375–91). His prose is pervasively ironic, full of wordplay, puns, topical allusions, and quotations. He sometimes plays with typography somewhat in the manner of Laurence Sterne.
His favorite prose form was the satirical vignette, of which the examples published here are characteristic examples. His prose writings contain much explicit and implicit social critique, of religious institutions, bureaucracy, social hypocrisy, and sexual mores, and his work is sometimes sexually suggestive. His prose work is reminiscent of a nineteenth- or early twentieth century feuilletonist; Leslie Bodi, who has made the most thorough critical evaluation of Perinet’s prose writings, considers him a precursor of Karl Kraus, Peter Altenberg, and Adalbert Stifter (Bodi 1977, 380). There is something unmistakably Viennese about Perinet’s humor.
Perinet’s first publication was Kleine Schriften oder moralisches Verdrußspiel (1784; Wienbibliothek, A-11132), a mix of poetry and prose in 22 chapters called “Anklagen” (accusations; Gugitz 1905, 157), thus inaugurating Perinet’s series of small books made up of numbered vignettes, such as the Ärgernisse and the Annehmlickkeiten. He published at least six “Broschüren” in 1786. The Kleiner Katechismus der Liebe für Mädchen (1786) and Kleiner Katechismus der Liebe für Junggesellen (1786) are satirical treatments of Viennese sexual mores cast as parodies of the Catholic catechism, in question and answer form. The opening of the Katechismus...für Mädchen gives the flavor:
Fr. Was heißt Katechismus der Liebe?
A. Katechismus der Liebe heißt der Un=
terricht in Wollust und Kokettrie, so
heißt auch insgemein das Buch, in dem
dieser Unterricht enthalten ist. [...]
[Katechismus...für Mädchen, 3]
Q. What is the catechism of love?
A. The catechism of love is instruction
in lust and coquetry, and also
in general the book in which
this instruction is contained. [...]
The content can be quite explicit by late eighteenth-century standards. The first of the seven “cardinal sins” (Hauptsünden) in the Katechismus...für Mädchen is “Tugend” (virtue), and the seventh is “Fruchtbarkeit” (fertility). The first of the seven virtues in opposition to the seven cardinal sins is “Laster” (vice), and the seventh virtue (in opposition to the sin of fertility) is “Tissots Laster” (Tissot’s vice; see Bodi 1977, 376). In 1760, the Swiss doctor Samuel August Tissot (1728–1797) had famously published L’Onanisme; ou dissertation physique, sur les malades produites par la Masturbation, which quickly appeared in new editions and translations throughout the following decades; it had been more or less instantly translated into German. Thus in Perinet’s catechism for young women, the remedy for the cardinal sin of fertility was masturbation.
Bodi (1977, 376) points out that the parody Credo in Katechismus...für Mädchen, addressed to the hypothetical male love object(s), is close to blasphemy:
Ich glaube an dich, du reicher
Verschwender! und liebe deine
Börse über alles! Ich glaube
alles, was du mir geoffenbaret
hast, an deine Stärke, deinen
Reichthum und dein Verspre=
chen, und daß du groß bist und
edel! — Ich glaube, daß jeder=
mann mein Nächster sey, und
ich meinen Nächsten lieben müs=
se! Ich glaube, ihr Männer!
an eure Herablassung, die her=
absteigt zu mir, mich zu ver=
gnügen, und euch zu begraben.
Ich glaube an alte Narren, und
auf meine eigene Kunst, Nach=
laß der Liebe, und eine allge=
meine Freundin die Abwechs=
lung, den Stand einer Maitres=
se, oder einer ruhigen Liebhabe=
rin, und einen ewigen Gnaden=
[Katechismus...für Mädchen, 13]
I believe in thee, thou rich
spendthrift! and love thy
purse above all! I believe
everything that thou hast
revealed to me: in thy
strength, thy riches, and
thy promises, and that
thou art great and noble! —
I believe that everyone is
my neighbor, and I must
love my neighbor! I believe,
you men, in your condescension
which descends to me, to
enjoy myself and to bury you.
I believe in old fools, and in
my own wiles, the inheritance
of love, and as a general friend of
change, in the status of
mistress or tranquil lover,
and in an eternal stipend.
Also published in 1786 were Perinet’s three little books of Ärgernisse (Wienbibliothek, A-11692, not yet available digitally): 29 Ärgernisse, 31 Ärgernisse, and Zwanzig und Fünf Ärgernisse. The same year saw his satire: Wer ist ein Dummkopf, und Wer ist ein Schurke? Eine Preißfrage von der berühmten Akademie der verderblichen Wissenschaften und welkenden Künsten zu Tripstrill aufgestellt (Who is a Dimwit, and Who is a Rascal? A Prize Question Placed by the Famous Academy of Perishable Sciences and Wilting Arts in Tripstrill). The place and date of publication are given on the title page as “Tripstrill, 6871”. Several of Perinet’s early publications, following a trend in other satirical writing of the time, have similar fanciful places of publication on their title pages: Schlaraffenland (Katechismus...für Mädchen), Paphos (Katechismus...für Junggesellen), and “in der Vorstadt des Limbus” (“in the suburb of Limbo”) in the poem Der Limbus, ein Pendant zu unseren Reisebeschreibungen (1786), which also includes an engraving of Vienna as a frontispiece, in the unlikely event that the reader had any doubt about where “Limbus” was located. Perinet’s satirical poem on the reaction of monks to Joseph II’s suppression of monasteries, Sendschreiben eines spanischen Esels an seine Verwandte in Deutschland (Epistle of a Spanish Ass to His Relations in Germany, also 1786), gives its place of publication as “Madrid.”
The first two books of Perinet’s Annehmlichkeiten were published in 1787. Also from 1787 are the XXIX Geheime Korrespondenzen. Erste und lezte Sammlung; Gugitz, writing in 1905 (163) stated that the exemplar of this work in the Hofbibliothek in Vienna was lost; but it was evidently later found again, and a good color scan is available through the catalog of the ÖNB (it is also available at Google Books). Bodi and the catalog of the Wienbibliothek both attribute to Perinet the anonymous Arlequinaden (1787, not listed in Gugitz 1905), which gives its place of publication as “London, und Berlin” but was certainly published in Vienna. Everything in this little book’s form, tone, and content seems consistent with Perinet’s authorship. Of potential interest to musicologists in Arlequinaden is a relatively long chapter on opera, “Singerei.” Also from 1787 are Perinet’s Fixfaxereien bei der Wasserkur (1787, Wienbibliothek, A-8067) and Wir lieben unser Kaiser (1787, Wienbibliothek, A-4926). Another collection published by Perinet in 1787 appears to be lost: 40 verdeckten Fastenspeisen mit Devisen (see Gugitz 1905, 163). The third book of Annehmlichkeiten appeared in 1788.
Perinet made his debut as a writer for the theater in 1789, and from that point on, the number of his prose writings falls off precipitously. However, 1789 saw the publication of Liliputische Steuerfassionen, Perinet’s satire of the unpopular war tax that Joseph II had instituted in Nov 1788 to help pay for the war against the Ottoman Turks (on the war, also see our entry for 28 Oct 1789). In Perinet’s satire, the residents of Lilliput are suffering from a plague of frogs, and are outraged over the imposed “frog tax”; the book consists mostly of a variety of entertaining explanations from different sorts of people about why they should be exempt (Bodi 1977, 391–94; see also Ammerer 1997, 78–79). Perinet’s Schnurren from around 1792 appears to be lost (Gugitz 1905, 164). In the first decade of the nineteenth century Perinet was apparently editor of some volumes of the Wiener Theater-Almanach (not to be confused with the Wiener Hof-Theater Almanach), although exactly how many is unclear (the almanacs for 1800 and 1804 are frequently cited; see Gugitz 1905, 164). His last known substantial prose publication was the series Briefe der Tulbinger Rösel an ihren Herrn Vettern den jungen Eipeldauer, als Gegenstück zu den Eipeldauer Briefen (1808; Wienbibliothek, A-82591). Perinet is said also to have written the texts of Hetzzettel (leaflets for shows at the animal-baiting arena that give elaborate descriptions of the programs) and Postbüchel (Gugitz 1905, 164). Gräffer transcribes a Hetzzettel from 16 May 1796 that he attributes to Perinet (Gräffer 1845b). Postbüchel were small leaflets with humorous content distributed by postal carriers on New Year’s; Gräffer (1846, 132) claims that Perinet wrote many of these, but whether any survive seems not to have been investigated.
Perinet’s reputation in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth was governed by the general low esteem in which the Viennese popular theater was still held at the time by scholars of “serious” literature; in Perinet’s particular case, the low critical opinion was exacerbated by Joseph Sonnleithner’s hatchet job of 1827, reproduced nearly word for word in Wurzbach and from there taken up into the ADB and Gugitz’s first article on Perinet. Apart from his reliance on that questionable source, however, Gugitz’s writings on Perinet are the first serious scholarly work on the author, and are still essential. In early critical reactions, Perinet’s writing (and the man himself) is depicted as facile, shallow, and inclined to coarse smutty humor. But even Gugitz (who perhaps in spite of himself seems to have been fascinated by Perinet) admitted that Perinet’s prose writings had merit: “Diese feuilletonistischen Arbeiten sind vielleicht das Erfreulichste und Dauerndste, auch Selbständigste in Perinets Schaffen … (These feuilletonistic works are perhaps the most gratifying and lasting, and also the most independent in Perinet’s œuvre…; Gugitz 1905, 162). The view of Perinet in the decades after the Second World War changed markedly, so that, for example, the article on Perinet in the Historisches Lexikon Wien can now claim: “Perinet war einer der kreativsten Theaterdichter und einer der Begründer des Wiener Volkstücke…” (Perinet was one of the most creative theater writers and a founder of the Viennese popular theater…). Bodi also points to Perinet’s satirical critique of the hypocrisy of the Viennese-style Enlightenment; for example, Perinet astutely draws a parallel between the enduring Viennese love of animal baiting (die Hetze) and their love of public executions and punishment (Bodi 1977, here esp. 386; see chpt. 16, “Eine Exekuzion” in 29 Annehmlichkeiten). Perinet also jokes that the street lighting in Vienna is poor because the Viennese are so enlightened they don’t need it (Bodi 1977, 381; see chpt. 22, “Die Beleuchtung” in 29 Annehmlichkeiten).
As an author, Perinet wrote quickly and much, and probably revised little. He should be evaluated not as someone self-consciously trying to write for the ages, but as someone writing topical and (often) perishable comedy for a broad audience, rather like a writer for a modern comedy sketch show on television. And by all appearances, he was quite good at this.
In 1919, a short street near the northwest corner of the Augarten on the border between the districts of Leopoldstadt and Brigittenau was named Perinetgasse in his honor, a name that it retains today.