Music Composers

Hector Berlioz-Part 10

At least he had the satisfaction that some of his illustrious fellow artists championed him with word and deed, and he got fresh courage to fight on. "No, a thousand times, no!" - he writes - "no man living has a right to try and destroy the individuality of another, to force him to adopt a style not his own, and to give his natural point of view. If a man is commonplace let him remain so; if he be great - a choice spirit set above his fellows - then in the name of all the gods bow humbly before him and let him stand erect and alone in his glory!"

A puzzle in Berlioz's life is the "plural" attachments to several young beauties; to Estelle "with the pink slippers" to the English "divinity" Henrietta Smithson, to his "Ariel," as he calls Marie Plegel, and the Mlle. Recio, a mediocre but very ambitious singer, whom he married later on. Consecutive love affairs are not uncommon in some, but Berlioz loved several charmers at the same time. He was raving for "Ariel" and had ready loaded pistols to kill her and her whole family for not responding to his entreaties; but this trifle (!) did not prevent him from throwing his hand and heart at the feet of Miss Smithson and marrying her. Artists' hearts, of course, are not to be measured by normal standards.

He showed even a touching loyalty, after ten years had passed since the death of Henrietta, in a gruesome scene thus described by Berlioz: "I was officially notified that the small cemetery at Monmorte, where Henrietta lay, was to be closed and that I must remove her dear body. I gave the necessary orders and one gloomy morning set out alone for the deserted burial ground. A municipal officer awaited me, and as I came up a sexton jumped down into the open grave. The then years' buried coffin was still intact with the exception of the cover decayed by damp, and the man, instead of lifting it to the surface, pulled at the rotten boards, which, tearing asunder with a hideous noise, left the remains exposed. Stooping, he took in his hands that fleshless head, dis-crowned and gaunt; the head of poor Ophelia, and placed it in the coffin lying on the brink of the grave - alas, alas! Again he stooped and raised the headless trunk, a black, repulsive mass in its discolored shroud - it fell with a dull, hopeless sound into its place. The officer, a few paces off, stood watching. Seeing me leaning against a cypress tree, he cried: 'Come nearer, M. Berlioz, come nearer.' In a few moments we followed the hearse down the hill to the great cemetery where the new vault yawned before us. Henrietta was laid within."

The Etude Magazine September 1919





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