glyph 504: history, music, 19th century liberalism vs. tyranny ... book, Napoleon, by Paul Johnson; review by Victor Davis Hanson


Beethoven's Judgment on the "Emperor" Napoleon

a great man discovers a small man

While Beethoven was working on his third symphony, his friend, Ferdinand Ries, told him that Napoleon had taken the title, "Emperor". He describes the moment:

In this symphony, Beethoven had Bonaparte in his mind, but as he was when he was First Consul. Beethoven esteemed him greatly at the time [1804] and likened him to the great Roman consuls. I ... saw a copy of the score lying on his table with the word "Bonaparte" at the extreme top of the title page, and at the extreme bottom "Luigi van Beethoven," but not another word. ...I was the first to bring him the intelligence that Bonaparte had declared himself emperor, whereupon he flew into a rage and cried out: "Is he then also nothing more than an ordinary human being? Now he too will trample on all the rights of men and indulge only his ambition. He will exhalt himself above all others and become a tyrant." Beethoven went to the table, took hold of the title page by the top, tore it in two and threw it on the floor.

Quoted by Paul Johnson in his biography, Napoleon.

Never in the history of music was a great work so quickly improved. -leif

Paul Johnson's short biography of Napoleon is wonderfully perceptive. A review of Napoleon by Victor Davis Hanson, "The Little Tyrant," may be found at:
August 25, 2010

a list of all glyphs