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

John Porter okttbfn at gmail.com
Mon Feb 20 19:27:04 PST 2017


Simply in order to hopefully amuse PW, I give you this paraphrased memory
from my youth, when once I read that Beethoven's last words were "I Have
spent much of my time above ground composing, and I shall spend my time
below ground doing just the reverse and decomposing".  Sorry if that's too
flippant...!
John :-)

On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 1:55 AM, Kevin O'Kelly <rkokelly at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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>
>
>
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