Life of Beethoven

Author: Anselm Hüttenbrenner

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Thayer

Beethoven in Extremis

[1827]

Frau von Beethoven and I were the only ones in the death-chamber during the last moments of Beethoven’s life. Beethoven had lain unconscious, the death-rattle in his throat from 3 o’clock in the afternoon till after 5. Suddenly there came a flash of lightning accompanied by a violent clap of thunder, which garishly illuminated the death-chamber. (Snow was piled up outside Beethoven’s dwelling). After this unexpected phenomenon of nature, which startled me greatly, Beethoven opened his eyes, lifted his right hand and clenched his fist. For several seconds his face wore an angry, defiant expression, as if he wanted to say:

"Inimical powers, I defy you! Away with you! God is with me!"

It also seemed as though, like a gallant commander, he wished to call out to his wavering troops:

"Courage, soldiers! Forward! Trust in me! Victory is assured!"

When he let the raised hand sink to the bed, his eyes closed halfway. My right hand was under his head, my left rested on his breast. Not another breath, not a heartbeat more! The genius of the great master of tones fled from this world of delusion into the realm of truth!

I pressed down the half-open eyelids of the dead man, kissed them, then his forehead, mouth, and hands. At my request Frau von Beethoven cut a lock of hair from his head and handed it to me as a sacred souvenir of Beethoven’s last hour. Thereupon I hurried, deeply moved, into the city, carrying the intelligence of Beethoven’s death to Herr Tobias Has-linger, and after a few hours returned to my home in Styria.

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Chicago: Anselm Hüttenbrenner, Life of Beethoven, ed. Thayer in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed December 8, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HM4KTAN22AS9G9C.

MLA: Hüttenbrenner, Anselm. Life of Beethoven, edited by Thayer, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 8 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HM4KTAN22AS9G9C.

Harvard: Hüttenbrenner, A, Life of Beethoven, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 8 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=HM4KTAN22AS9G9C.