Monday, February 27, 2006

The Baron and I

Last night I returned from Saint Gilgen as the future wife of Johann Baptist von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg and step-mother to his five children. I drank three or four glasses of elderflower wine with Papa, who is half-pleased and half-pained that I will be off his hands, no longer to endure a life in service to the Archbishop. We played duets, talked a great deal about the past and all was well until I got to bed, quite swollen and vertiginous.

What caused the commotion was not so much the effect of the wine as the prospect of my life in a different harness. We are drawn together like post-horses from different carriages, the baron and I, obliged to gallop together for the next few miles. No doubt I have delayed this event as if it were a great dessert that will put an end to the merry-go-round inside my head.

I have swallowed the black powder that Papa has mixed for me and said goodbye to the scarlet coat and white silk stockings of my dreams. I have written a letter to my future husband that begins, 'My Dear Johannes,' and ends, 'Your loving, N.'

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I cling to the idea that any serious study of a body of knowledge will yield some secret, even if it is not the original enlightenment that was sought.
I have attempted the study of composition in all aspects of old and fashionable harmony and have come to the conclusion that there is no recipe for perfection in this. That is my revelation, Herr Hofmann, and the secret that I cannot keep.
Since you know I have the perfectionist's capacity for worry, I will put down my quill for today and consider the Baron Sonnenburg's proposal. N.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Public Secret

I have been neglecting my diary of late, but now I have some important news. It seems I am to become an aunt and my sister-in-law has written me a letter, which I received today, saying: 'Dearest Nanny-kin, I will make such a fuss over you when you come to Vienna and stay with my little family,' (clearly her head is not the best developed part of her), 'and I hope,' she continues, 'that I will soon be introducing you to our friends as Frau d'Yppold! Frau d'Ypp - who? This is Papa's unfortunate and misleading gossip to his son, which is wildly out of date. Next, he will be telling the whole of Austria that I am to marry the Baron von Sonnenburg, who has just lost his second wife. Either that or they will wed me to the moon and I will become a very old piece of cheese. N.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

At Last I am Alone

Papa has gone to the theatre and there is nothing to interrupt my thoughts. They are, dear Jakob, of you and me.

I could never bring myself to confess that you are engraved on my soul, so how can I expect to confide about such feelings with anyone else? Everything I look at is a part of you. You are my scarlet coat and my gold buttons, my white silk stockings and the buckles on my shoes. You are all that I know and dream.

Papa complains that he is growing old, while Wolfie exists in a distant bubble with his new wife and his plans for at least six children. They understand nothing of my desires and yours, but urge me in letters to find a husband and give up the waters.

There seems little point to my life now you are physically removed from it. No more violin lessons with Papa, my friend. No more market days in the square for us to meet without a care. No excuses left for buying another yard of lace. You have chosen to wander between upper and lower Silesia with your box of hose and your instrument.

I must remain an old maid in Salzburg with Papa, practising my galanteries. Either that or I will wed a widower. I am almost thirty-three years old and irredeemably melancholy. I will burn this letter in the stove, together with my songs. Only the memories will remain. N.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

According to Papa

This was the trick:
Last December, Wolfie signed a contract in which he promised to marry his beloved Constanze within three years from that date or else pay her three hundred gulden a year. Soon after their agreement, the two lovebirds were hounded by the most malicious gossip.

Frau Weber complained to anyone who would listen that the scandal would compromise her daughter’s reputation. Papa is now convinced that Wolfie was pushed into marriage by her skulduggery.

Perhaps, dear brother, you were propelled, not pushed? I can see that it could be so, but I'm afraid Papa won't have it any other way. N.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

August, 1782

It has happened. They are married, my brother Wolfie and his new wife, Constanze.
‘Tricked by the threat of scandal,’ my father bellowed when he first received the news. ‘We have lost him now, my dear,’ and for once he did not stamp his foot but wept into his handkerchief.
‘The passion will fade soon enough,’ I murmured.
‘Too late, too late,’ he sighed.
‘Does my brother gaze at the moon when he is holding his wife in his arms?’
‘It may be an excellent plan when he is tired of her.’ Papa spoke in a cold voice but when I looked at him again, he was still weeping.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Living Chronicle

Sometimes I am compelled to write down everything that occurs in Salzburg so I may write it out a second time in a letter to tickle Wolfie. Katherl has told me a piece of gossip expressly for his ears.

Last Wednesday, when I was obliged to practise for a concert that evening, there was a handsome youth who was a guest of the Gilowsky’s for their afternoon shoot. He claimed to have an excellent eye for targets and boasted that he could hit the smallest spot from the furthest point. He challenged the party to come up with a suitable mark to test his excellence.

Katherl’s brother exclaimed: “Let’s not hang around for this. Let’s do it now.’
He found some ink and a quill in his travel case and painted a fly’s wing on a soldier’s hat, pinning it to a tree at twenty paces or thereabouts.
‘This,’ pronounced Gilowsky, ‘is the target.’
‘Very well,’ said our hero as he aimed and fired his arrow with a great squinting of one eye.

Oh, cruel fate. It fell wide of the mark and when Katherl turned to examine the handsome youth to see if he was crestfallen, she saw that his open eye was made of glass. N.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Madame X has given another recital with her hapless husband. She is drawing a salary of five hundred ducats from His Grace because she sings her arias an exclamation mark higher than her rivals. This is really a great achievement, for she manages to remain in tune. She has now promised to sing a further half tone higher than her habit, but on condition that she is paid twice as much.

When safely inside our coach, I turned to Papa and announced I would like to compose her a song or two to sing in my new opera.
‘Basta!,' he shouted to the walls. 'Over my ...’ and left the words unfinished.
“Clunk, clunk,’ I replied in tune with the wheels and we laughed so much that he wept as he kissed my hands and whispered into my ear, ‘I wish Jack Pudding were here.’ We were silent for the rest of the way home and did not have to mention Mama for us to think about her too. N.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


‘Believe me, my sole purpose is to make as much money as possible; for after good health, it is the best thing to have.’

I have cut out these sentiments from my brother’s letter to Papa and pinned it with my brooch to the silk tassel on the end of my bed.

Now I am going to talk to you as if we were alone, which in a sense, we are. Papa is convinced that Wolfie will marry Fraulein Weber and have six babies on the trot and they will all starve to death in a garret. Is it not possible for a man to reform? N.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Shameful Concert

Madame X gave a recital at the theatre last night. Papa was moved to turn to me between arias and say, ‘Why?’ with all the passion of a scale in a storm. ‘BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.’

‘Shush Papa,’ I whispered back, ‘X-actly,’ and stifled my laughter by biting the lace of my handkerchief. Her husband, poor man, was afraid to be seen at the end of the concert. It had been his particular misfortune to accompany her on a beautiful, Stein fortepiano and he kept hiding behind the curtain as she took her bows. I felt such relief his wife had not mangled a single note by Wolfie and that her programme was entirely devoted to obscure, dead composers. At least, they will never know she made a loud bellow out of a cat’s purr. N.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


When I opened my diary at the page where I made my last entry, I happened to hold it in such a way that nothing but a blank sheet met my eyes. Then I fell upon the words ‘moral force,’ followed by ‘the Weber daughters.’ Indeed. We now know which one.

‘Constanze. Constance. My little Connie, my true, plain dove.’ He cannot sing her praises without also mentioning her deficiencies. ‘Papa dear, she is not exactly beautiful but she has, I tell you now, such fine brown eyes and a selfless heart – you could not fail to admire the way she is devoted to her mother – and her voice, though small, has a distinctive grace’… or words to that effect. Is this passion? Is this love, I ask myself? Can my brother - be taken by a person so ordinary to our minds that she has faults as well as virtues? Ah, Wolfie dear, perhaps I am blind. Think of your next opera. Pazienza. N.