Heiligenstadt Testament

In May 1802, on the advice of Johann Adam
Schmidt, Beethoven went to Heiligenstadt to
rest. This residence was separate from the
one at Vienna: it took about an hour to get
there by carriage.

Depressed and unable to hide his increasing
infirmity, Beethoven wrote, on October 6th
1802 a document which he guarded carefully
afterwards, entitled “The Heiligenstadt
Testament”. In it he revealed his deafness
and expressed his disgust. A second part of
the testament was written a few days later,
on October 10th 1802.

It is noted that three times the composer
has omitted to write the christian name of
his second brother, Johann.

Beethoven later wrote two more wills: in
1824, and, just before his death, in 1827.

For my brothers Carl and Beethoven

O ye men who think or say that I am malevolent,
stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do
ye wrong me, you do not know the secret
causes of my seeming, from childhood my
heart and mind were disposed to the gentle
feelings of good will, I was even ever eager
to accomplish great deeds, but reflect now
that for six years I have been a hopeless
case, aggravated by senseless physicians,
cheated year after year in the hope of improvement,
finally compelled to face the prospect of
a lasting malady (whose cure will
take years or, perhaps, be impossible),
born with an ardent and lively temperament,
even susceptible to the diversions of society,
I was compelled early to isolate myself,
to live in loneliness, when I at times tried
to forget all this, O how harshly was I
repulsed by the doubly sad experience of
my bad hearing, and yet it was impossible
for me to say to men speak louder, shout,
for I am deaf. Ah how could I possibly admit
such an infirmity in the one sense which
should have been more perfect in me than
in others, a sense which I once possessed
in highest perfection, a perfection such
as few surely in my profession enjoy or
have enjoyed – O I cannot do it, therefore
forgive me when you see me draw back when
I would gladly mingle with you, my misfortune
is doubly painful because it must lead to
my being misunderstood, for me there can
be no recreations in society of my fellows,
refined intercourse, mutual exchange of
thought, only just as little as the greatest
needs command may I mix with society. I
must live like an exile, if I approach near
to people a hot terror seizes upon me, a
fear that I may be subjected to the danger
of letting my condition be observed – thus
it has been during the past year which I
spent in the country, commanded by my intelligent
physician to spare my hearing as much as
possible, in this almost meeting my natural
disposition, although I sometimes ran counter
to it yielding to my inclination for society,
but what a humiliation when one stood beside
me and heard a flute in the distance and
I heard nothing, or someone heard
the shepherd singing and again I
heard nothing, such incidents brought me
to the verge of despair, but little more
and I would have put an end to my life –
only art it was that withheld me, ah it
seemed impossible to leave the world until
I had produced all that I felt called upon
me to produce, and so I endured this wretched
existence – truly wretched, an excitable
body which a sudden change can throw from
the best into the worst state – Patience
– it is said that I must now choose for
my guide, I have done so, I hope my determination
will remain firm to endure until it please
the inexorable parcae to bread the thread,
perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not,
I am prepared. Forced already in my 28th
year to become a philosopher, O it is not
easy, less easy for the artist than for
anyone else – Divine One thou lookest into
my inmost soul, thou knowest it, thou knowest
that love of man and desire to do good live
therein. O men, when some day you read these
words, reflect that ye did me wrong and
let the unfortunate one comfort himself
and find one of his kind who despite all
obstacles of nature yet did all that was
in his power to be accepted among worthy
artists and men. You my brothers Carl and
[Johann] as soon as I am dead if Dr. Schmid
is still alive ask him in my name to describe
my malady and attach this document to the
history of my illness so that so far as
possible at least the world may become reconciled
with me after my death. At the same time
I declare you two to be the heirs to my
small fortune (if so it can be called),
divide it fairly, bear with and help each
other, what injury you have done me you
know was long ago forgiven. to you brother
Carl I give special thanks for the attachment
you have displayed towards me of late. It
is my wish that your lives be better and
freer from care than I have had, recommend
virtue to your children, it alone can give
happiness, not money, I speak from experience,
it was virtue that upheld me in misery,
to it next to my art I owe the fact that
I did not end my life with suicide. – Farewell
and love each other – I thank all my friends,
particularly Prince Lichnowsky and
Professor Schmid – I desire that
the instruments from Prince L. be preserved
by one of you but let no quarrel result
from this, so soon as they can serve you
better purpose sell them, how glad will
I be if I can still be helpful to you in
my grave – with joy I hasten towards death
– if it comes before I shall have had an
opportunity to show all my artistic capacities
it will still come too early for me despite
my hard fate and I shall probably wish it
had come later – but even then I am satisfied,
will it not free me from my state of endless
suffering? Come when thou will I shall meet
thee bravely. – Farewell and do not wholly
forget me when I am dead, I deserve this
of you in having often in life thought of
you how to make you happy, be so –

october 6,1802
van Beethowen

For my brothers Carl and
to be read and executed after my death.

Heiligenstadt, October 10, 1802, thus
do I take my farewell of thee – and indeed
sadly – yes that beloved hope – which I
brought with me when I came here to be cured
at least in a degree – I must wholly abandon,
as the leaves of autumn fall and are withered
so hope has been blighted, almost as I came
– I go away – even the high courage – which
often inspired me in the beautiful days
of summer – has disappeared – O Providence
– grant me at least but on e day of pure
joy – it is so long since real joy echoed
in my heart – O when – O when, O Divine
One – shall I find it again in the temple
of nature and of men – Never? no – O that
would be too hard.