[PW] ? Beethoven "Last Words" (Quotation Query #767)

Kevin O'Kelly rkokelly at gmail.com
Mon Feb 20 06:55:56 PST 2017


Interesting. Those all echo what was supposedly one of the last utterances
of the Emperor Augustus:  "Acta est fabula, plaudite."/"The play is over,
applaud."

On Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 9:56 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> Below is a deathbed saying in Latin ascribed to Beethoven in 1840. He
> died in 1827. This Latin statement seems to be truncated. A longer
> version was published a little later.
>
> Date: January 11, 1840
> Periodical: The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of
> Useful Knowledge
> Article: Beethoven
> Start Page 14, Quote Page 15, Column 1
> Publisher: Charles Knight, London
>
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.30000093219438
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.30000093219438?urlappend=%3Bseq=25
>
> [Begin excerpt – please double-check]
> A singular anecdote is told of his death-bed. On his medical
> attendants informing him of his approaching end, he immediately cried
> out to those around him, "Plaudite, amici! comedia finita è" (clap
> your hands, my friends! the play is over).
> [End excerpt]
>
> The 1842 review below provides a good lead because it points to a book
> containing a pertinent letter.
>
> Year: 1842
> Periodical: The Christian Remembrancer: Monthly Magazine and Review
> Article: Book Review of: "The Life of Beethoven, including his
> Correspondence with his Friends, and numerous characteristic Traits
> and Remarks on his Musical Works" Edited by Ignace Moscheles, Esq.
> Pianist 'to H.R.H. Prince Albert. In two vols, 8vo Pp. 674. London:
> Colburn. 1841.
> Start Page 128, Quote Page 130
> Publisher: James Burns, London
>
> [Begin footnote]
> It will appear surprising, to those who have heard the sacred
> compositions of Beethoven, that he should have been an unbeliever. "If
> my observation," says M. Schindler, "entitles me to form an opinion on
> the subject, I should say he inclined to Deism; in so far as that term
> may be understood to imply natural religion." (Vol. ii p. 163.) And in
> another passage, (vol. ii. p. 72,) M. Schindler, in a letter written
> to Moscheles, while Beethoven was dying, says, "He is conscious of his
> approaching end for yesterday he said to me and Brewning, 'Plaudite
> amici, comoedia finita est.' He sees the approach of death with the
> most perfect tranquility of soul, and real Socratic wisdom."
> [End footnote]
>
> There is also a match in "Revue Britannique", a non-English periodical.
>
> Nigel Rees covered the topic of Beethoven's deathbed remark in
> "Brewer's Famous Quotations" (2006). He gave two versions with
> citations in 1930 and 1961. He also mentioned a connection to the
> supposed dying words of Rabelais.
>
> [Begin excerpt – please double-check]
> Ludwig van BEETHOVEN German composer (1770-1827)
>
> Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est [Applaud, my friends, the comedy is
> over].
>
> Words on his deathbed, quoted in 'Bega', Last Words of Famous Men
> (1930). Compare RABELAIS 375:4. However, 'I shall hear in heaven' are
> the last words as attributed in Barnaby Conrad, Famous Last Words
> (1961).
> [End excerpt]
>
> [Begin excerpt – please double-check raw OCR]
> Francois RABELAIS French writer (1494—?1553)
>
> The comedy is ended.
>
> The dying words of Rabelais are supposed to have been: 'Je m'en vais
> chercher un grand peut-etre; tirez le rideau, la farce est jouee [I am
> going to seek a grand perhaps; bring down the curtain, the farce is
> played out]: The attribution is made, hedged about with disclaimers,
> in Jean Fleury's Rabelais et ses oeuvres (1877) . . .
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> On Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 8:44 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu>
> wrote:
> > Beethoven's "last words" are often said to be "I shall hear" or "I shall
> hear in heaven" (in German, of course).  I realize that most "last words"
> are apocryphal and this one is undoubtedly apocryphal, but I would welcome
> any information helping me to determine what is the earliest occurrence in
> print of this attributed quotation.
> >
> >
> > Fred Shapiro
> >
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