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The "Suppression" of Fanny Mendelssohn: Rethinking Feminist Biography

Author(s): Marian Wilson Kimber


Source: 19th-Century Music, Vol. 26, No. 2, (Autumn, 2002), pp. 113-129
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3250536
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The of
"Suppression" Fanny Mendelssohn:

Rethinking Feminist Biography


MARIAN WILSON KIMBER

It is in the stories we tell our children that the it, can be found in a variety of popular and
myths that define culture aremost clearly trans- scholarly sources. It is a primary theme of
mitted. Thus, Gloria Kamen's 1996 children's Fran9oise Tillard's 1992 biography, Fanny
book, Hidden Music: The Life of Fanny Mendelssohn, known in its German edition as
Mendelssohn, represents the distillation of a Die verkannte Schwester (The Unrecognized
story that has become central to biographical Sister), which asserts that Fanny was "enjoined
representationsof Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel.' to keep quiet."2 In her edition of Felix's and
The story is this: Fanny, equally talented as her Fanny's correspondence, Eva Weissweiler ob-
brother Felix, was denied by her patriarchal serves that after 1980 female musicologists dis-
father the professional careerin music to which covered a female composer "blocked by Felix
she aspired and was not allowed to publish her in the publication of her works."3 That the
music by her repressive brother. Her music story has solidified into wide acceptance is dem-
was allowed to appearonly under her brother's onstrated by the emphasis it is given in the
name. Her "voice" was effectively silenced by entry on Hensel in the second edition of the
men, and her early death tragically ended her New Grove Dictionary, which hypothesizes
attempts to publish, so that she and her music that Felix "may have been motivated by jeal-
were lost to history. This story, or variants on ousy, fear of competition, protectiveness or pa-

A shorter version of this article was presented at the 2001


meeting of the SouthernChapterof the American Musico- 2Fran9oise Tillard, Fanny Mendelssohn, trans. Camille
logical Society at Louisiana State University. I would like Naish (Portland,Oreg.:Amadeus, 1996), pp. 14-15. At the
to thank Douglass Seaton, Jonathan Bellman, Gina 1997 Fanny Hensel Conference at the Hochschule der
Pellegrino, Michael Kimber, Monika Hennemann, Valerie Kunste in Berlin, Tillard stated that the German title was
Goertzen, and Ruth A. Solie for their comments and en- the publisher's, not hers.
couragement. 3Fannyand Felix Mendelssohn, "Die Musik will gar nicht
rutschen ohne Dich": Briefwechsel 1821 bis 1846, ed. Eva
'Gloria Kamen, Hidden Music: The Life of Fanny Weissweiler (Berlin:Propylaen, 1997), p. 7: "Von Felix in
Mendelssohn (New York:Simon and Schuster, 1996). der Ver6ffentlichungihrer Werke blockiert."

19th-CenturyMusic, XXVI/2,pp. 113-29. ISSN:0148-2076. ? 2002 by The Regents of the University of 113
California.All rights reserved.Send requests for permission to reprint to: Rights and Permissions, University
of CaliforniaPress, JournalsDivision, 2000 Center St., Ste. 303, Berkeley, CA 94704-1223.
19TH ternalism."4This article offers a critique of the wise, Devoney Looser's rules for feminist biog-
CENUTSIRYstory, examining its roots as well as the rea- raphy include "measuring the degree of rebel-
sons for its continuing popularity, and utilizing lion inherent in a woman's achievement."9
it as a case study for the ways in which femi- Thus the story of Hensel's publishing struggles
nist biography can undermine itself. would seemingly be the result of a new femi-
As feminist cultural critics attempt to nist interpretation of her life. In this, the story
"change the subject," they find that the life- fulfills the goal describedby Ruth Solie that we
narrative is an effective tool, so it is not sur- need to learn "the pain of any 'normal' woman
prising that Hensel's biography has received attempting to live a life beyond the boundaries
increased attention in the past twenty years.5 of the script she was handed."'1
Biographersof talented women have tradition- Reexamination of the documentary evidence
ally portrayed them as "abnormal" for their for the story of Fanny Hensel's suppression,
gender or have downplayed their achievements however, demonstrates that it is, at best, an
to demonstratethat they fulfilled expected femi- exaggeration and that it is actually rooted in
nine societal roles.6 The story of Fanny the nineteenth-century ideology. The story origi-
composer, suppressedby her successful brother, nated in two primary published sources. The
initially appears to subvert such conventional first is the letter that Felix Mendelssohn wrote
biographical models, adopting what Maureen in 1837 in reply to his mother Lea's request
Quilligan has described as feminist biography's that he encourage his sister to publish her mu-
legitimate imposition of new and different sic. Part of the letter that contained Mendels-
"shapes" on human life.7 For Alison Booth, sohn's oft-cited negative response was first pub-
feminist biography is sometimes a story "gen- lished by his brother Paul and his son Carl in
erated in the gap between the female charac- the second volume of his letters, which ap-
ters' potential and their achievement";8 like- peared in 1863 (see Appendix, p. 129).11 The
second source is Die Familie Mendelssohn by
Fanny's son, Sebastian Hensel. His two-vol-
4Marcia J. Citron, "Mendelssohn(-Bartholdy) [Hensel], ume family history first appearedin 1879 and
Fanny (Cacilie)," in New Grove Dictionary of Music and went through numerous editions in German
Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell (2nd edn.
London:Macmillan, 2000), vol. 16, p. 388. Elsewhere, Cit- and English. Despite the bowdlerization of its
ron treats the relationship of Fanny Hensel and Felix letters, Hensel's book served as the most influ-
Mendelssohn in more detail and frequently without many ential force in establishing FannyHensel's post-
of the exaggerationscritiqued in this article. Nonetheless,
the relationship is of central importance in her Hensel humous reputation. Over one-third of the book
scholarship. See, for example, "Felix Mendelssohn's Influ- is devoted to Fanny, and thus it functions as a
ence on FannyMendelssohn Hensel as a ProfessionalCom-
biography of her. It includes letters from
poser,"CurrentMusicology37/38 (1984),9-17; "The Lieder AbrahamMendelssohn to his teenage daughter
of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel," Musical Quarterly 69
(1983), 570-73; "FannyMendelssohn Hensel: Musician in Fanny, defining her future role as housewife, as
Her Brother'sShadow,"in The Female Autograph:Theory well as Felix's official "welcome" to the guild
and Practice of Autobiographyfrom the Tenth to the Twen-
tieth Century, ed. Domna C. Stanton (Chicago:University of professional composers after she began sus-
of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 152-59; and Gender and the tained efforts to publish in 1846. The story of
Musical Canon (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, the dilemma regarding her publishing, how-
1993), pp. 54-56, 65, 99, and 110.
SAlisonBooth, "The Lessons of the Medusa:Anna Jameson ever, is told largely through her son's voice.
and Collective Biographiesof Women," Victorian Studies
42 (1999/2000), 260. Many scholars date the beginning of
scholarly treatment of Hensel from Victoria Sirota, The graphicalCriticism, ed. William H. Epstein (WestLafayette,
Life and Worksof Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Mus. A. D. Ind.:PurdueUniversity Press, 1991), p. 95.
diss., Boston University, 1981). 9Devoney Looser, "Heroine of the Peripheral?Biography,
6See Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Writing a Woman's Life (New Feminism, and Sylvia Plath," a/b: Auto/Biography Stud-
York:Norton, 1988). ies 8 (1993), 182.
7MaureenQuilligan, "Rewriting History: The Difference I'Ruth A. Solie, "Changingthe Subject,"CurrentMusicol-
of Feminist Biography,"Yale Review 77 (1988), 261-62. ogy 53 (1993), 61.
8Alison Booth, "Biographical Criticism and the 'Great' "Letter of 24 June 1837, in Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy,
Woman of Letters: The Example of George Eliot and Vir- Briefe aus den Jahren 1833 bis 1847, ed. Paul and Carl
ginia Woolf," in Contesting the Subject: Essays in the Mendelssohn Bartholdy (5th edn. Leipzig: Hermann
Postmodern Theory and Practice of Biography and Bio- Mendelssohn, 1865), pp. 141-42.

114
The evident goal of Paul Mendelssohn viewer Louis Ehlert specifically commented on MARIAN
WILSON
Bartholdyand his nephew SebastianHensel was this story of a family "which was so rich in KIMBER
not to provideaccuratedocumentationfor twen- significant, sincere and exemplary people" ap- "Suppression"
of Fanny
tieth-century biographers,but to create socially pearing in a time when "every day throws a Mendelssohn
acceptable images of the lives of their famous sinister pamphlet on our desk."'5
relatives for public consumption. In a letter to Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Sebastian
Karl Klingemann after Felix's death, Paul Hensel were successful in their aim. Felix
Mendelssohn Bartholdyenvisioned his brother's Mendelssohn was praised as the perfect Victo-
published letters as a source of moral instruc- rian gentleman, representing a model man; in
tion; he wrote that "alone the work could be- America, the Atlantic Monthly even called for
come, in my opinion, a guiding star for many, religious societies to circulate his letters.16
many people."'2 Sebastian Hensel's stated de- Fanny and the rest of the Mendelssohns were
sire to produce "the chronicle of a good middle- also seen as conforming to moral ideals. In his
class family in Germany"'3resulted in his be- 1882 review of Sebastian Hensel's book, Ed-
coming an apologist for his unusual mother. ward Dowden praised the family, writing that
His book continually attempts to demonstrate "a family history is not always a recordof kind-
that, despite his mother's tremendous intellec- ness, truth, purity, mutual help.... Goodness
tual and musical gifts, she nonetheless con- in a group of persons, and in an eminent degree,
formed to appropriatesocial roles for women, is rare;goodness with genius, one and indivis-
that she was actually a "typical"daughter,wife, ible, is still rarer."'7Fanny's image thus re-
and mother. Like previous biographies of flected contemporaryideals of what constituted
women, Hensel's book is liberally sprinkled an ideal woman. The story of her request that
with just such frequent assurances that Fanny her Jewish grandmother, Bella Salomon, "for-
conformed to societal expectations of "wom- give Uncle Bartholdy" [JacobBartholdy]for his
anliness" and that she had no desire to step conversion to Christianity was frequently re-
outside the domestic sphere. His emphasis on counted as evidence of her "innate goodness."18
his mother's reluctance to publish and Paul's The danger for modern biographers in pro-
inclusion of the letter that documents Felix's viding a feminist critique of this tale is that to
disapprovalare both products of a largeragenda, critique it, or even to suggest that Fanny found
that of making sure that the images of Felix her life situation more frustrating than
and Fanny conformed to nineteenth-century Sebastian Hensel was willing to admit, one
bourgeois gender roles. The widespread anti- must first uncritically accept a story told from
Semitism of the period and the family's Jewish the perspective of nineteenth-century men with
heritage further necessitated a portrayalthat in a professed agenda. Even if Felix Mendelssohn
no way deviated from cultural norms.14 Re- did not fully support his sister's publishing en-

'2Letter of 10 December 1847, in Ingeborg Stolzenberg,


"Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy nach dem Tode seines Composer as Other: Gender and Race in the Biographyof
BrudersFelix: Ein Brief vom 10. Dezember 1847 an Karl Felix Mendelssohn" in The Mendelssohns: Their Music in
Klingemann . . . ," Mendelssohn Studien 8 (1993), 184: History, ed. JohnMichael Cooper and Julie Prandi(Oxford
"Allein das Werk konnte meiner Meinung nach ein University Press, forthcoming).
leitender Stern fur viele, viele Menschen werden." "5LouisEhlert, review of Sebastian Hensel, Die Familie
13SebastianHensel, Die Familie Mendelssohn 1729-1847, Mendelssohn, 1729-1847, in Deutsche Rundschau 17
nach Briefen und Tagebiichern,ed. KonradFeilchenfeldt (1878), 469: "welches so reich war an bedeutenden,
(Frankfurtam Main: Insel, 1995), p. 877: "als Chronik wahrhaftigenund vorbildlichen Menschen"; ". .. whrend
einer guten deutschen Biirgerfamilie." jeder Tag ein unheimliches Pamphlet auf unseren
14Tillardhas made a similar point in "Felix und Fanny Schreibtischwirft?"
Mendelssohn Bartholdy-Verk6rperung biirgerlicher 16[W.L. Gage], review of Letters of Felix Mendelssohn
Perfektion,"in Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Bartholdyfrom 1833 to 1847 in Atlantic Monthly 15 (Janu-
Komponieren zwischen Geselligkeitsideal und ary 1865), 127.
romantischer Musikasthetik, ed. Beatrix Borchard and '7Edward Dowden, review of Sebastian Hensel's The
Monika Schwarz-Danuser(Stuttgart:J. B. Metzler, 1999), Mendelssohn Family (1729-1827 [sic]) from Letters and
pp. 237-47. For detailed discussion of the role of anti- Journals,in The Academy 21 (21 January1882), 37.
Semitism in late-nineteenth-centurybiographicalwritings 18"FannyMendelssohn," Musical Times 29 (1 June 1888),
about Felix Mendelssohn, see MarianWilson Kimber,"The 340.

115
19TH deavors, one must still consider the source of ters she wrote on behalf of Felix to the pub-
CENTURY
MUSIC the over-emphasis on this issue. Feminist criti- lisher Schlesinger between 1823 and 1834, be-
cism of the Mendelssohn family's story has ginning when he was a teenager and lasting
centered entirely on Fanny in its suggestion into his adulthood.23This hardly supports the
that she was not as happy in her domestic life transmittedportraitof a family in which women
as her son suggested. It has not considered that were totally restricted to the domestic sphere.
the story's emphasis on the male family mem- English critic Henry Chorley, who knew the
bers' seemingly very active role in Fanny's life family, wrote: "With such a mother, and such a
might be a product of gender ideology as well, brother, it was hardly likely that one like Ma-
an attempt to show Felix Mendelssohn's appro- dame Hensel should bury her talents in a nap-
priate male behavior for the period. Sebastian kin, or let them waste."24To ignore Lea's in-
Hensel's emphasis on Abraham as the family volvement in Fanny's life is to adopt unques-
head with Felix as his successor, constructed to tioningly Sebastian Hensel's patriarchal con-
correspond to nineteenth-century patriarchal struction of his family, an ironic oversight for a
values, is generally adopted without question.19 critical paradigmrooted in the interrogation of,
While Felix's opinion on Fanny's publishing and resistance to, traditional masculinist per-
was, at least initially, important to her,20mod- spectives.
ern retellings that maintain Hensel's emphasis Modern publication of Mendelssohn family
on the male members of the Mendelssohn fam- documents, available without the distorted
ily frequently omit the influences of two other transmission characteristic of nineteenth-cen-
individuals. Wilhelm Hensel, Fanny'shusband, tury editing practices, can provide a more com-
encouraged her salon concerts, her composing, plex picture of the issues surrounding both
and her publishing; he even provided texts for Fanny and Felix. A closer and uncensored read-
her to set.21Wilhelm's positive role, however, ing of Mendelssohn's letter to his mother of 24
is often overlooked in the rush to judgment of June 1837 reveals that he did not "forbid"his
Fanny'sbrother.MarciaCitron states unequivo- sister to do anything.25The letter clearly dem-
cally that Felix "was the most influential per- onstrates that Mendelssohn held a typical nine-
son in her life."22Wilhelm, her daily compan- teenth-century Germanbourgeois attitude, that
ion, almost disappearsfrom Kamen's narrative, Fanny Hensel's priorities should be her roles as
while Fanny continues to long for musical in- wife and mother, but it also suggests that
terchange with her distant sibling. In addition, Mendelssohn felt it was not his place to give
Sebastian Hensel's emphasis on his grandfa- Fanny advice regardingher decision to publish.
ther Abraham's patriarchalrole in Die Familie Mendelssohn wrote that should Fanny decide
Mendelssohn also overshadows the influence to publish, he would support her in whatever
that Lea Mendelssohn brought to the situation she undertook. Felix's specific request that his
in encouraging her daughter. That Lea's role in mother not mention his opinion to Fanny or
her children's lives was larger than it is typi- her husband, omitted from the original pub-
cally portrayed is suggested by a series of let-
23RudolfElvers, "Acht Briefevon Lea Mendelssohn an den
VerlagSchlesingerin Berlin,"in Das ProblemMendelssohn,
19Forexamples of Hensel's emphasis on the father-son re- ed. Carl Dahlhaus, Studien zur Musikgeschichte des 19.
lationship, see Die Familie Mendelssohn, pp. 113 and 127. Jahrhunderts41 (Regensburg:Bosse, 1974), pp. 47-53.
20SeeFanny's letters to Felix of 30 July 1836 and 28 Octo- 24HenryF. Chorley, "Mendelssohn's Mother and Sister,"
ber 1836 in The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix in W. A. Lampadius,Life of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy,
Mendelssohn, ed. and trans. Marcia J. Citron (New York: trans. William Leonhard Gage (Boston: O. Ditson, 1865;
Pendragon,1987), pp. 207-09 and pp. 214-15. rpt. Boston: Longwood, 1978), p. 212.
21See Hans-Giinter Klein, Die Kompositionen Fanny 25Letterof 24 June 1837, New York Public Library.The
Hensels in Autographen und Abschriften aus dem Besitz letter has been publishedin partin The Mendelssohn Com-
der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PreussischerKulturbesitz, panion, ed. Douglass Seaton (Westport,Conn.: Greenwood,
Musikbibliographische Arbeiten 13 (Tutzig: Hans 2001), p. 76, and in its entirety in The Mendelssohns on
Schneider, 1995), p. 114, for musical manuscripts with Honeymoon: The 1837 Diary of Felix and Cecile
texts by Wilhelm Hensel. Mendelssohn Bartholdy Together with Letters to Their
22Citron,"The Lieder of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel," p. Families, ed. and trans. Peter Ward Jones (Oxford:
572. Clarendon, 1997), pp. 165-68.

116
lished version of the letter, reveals him trying such as these songs. By Jesus!I know of nothing MARIAN
WILSON
hard to stay out of the discussion, not attempt- better."29In 1836 he wrote to Fanny attempting KIMBER
ing to control his sister's actions. Through her to assuage her self-doubt: "You know how I "Suppression"
of Fanny
examination of Hensel's manuscripts, Camilla love all your things and especially those that Mendelssohn
Cai has documented that Felix's letter seems have grown so close to my heart."30
to have had no immediate impact and that Mendelssohn's belief in women's place in the
Fanny continued to compose piano works into domestic sphere certainly deserves feminist
the fall of 1837.26 criticism, but excessive emphasis on this atti-
There is nothing in Mendelssohn's letter to tude is misplaced, given his remarkable accep-
indicate a belief in women's inferiority as com- tance and encouragement of women's creative
posers, a belief that was prevalent during the abilities. The issue for Mendelssohn was not
periodand long afterwards.Genderdid not color composition but publishing, and another error
Felix's evaluation of his sister's or of any of moderninterpretationsis the assumption that
women's compositions. He praised Josephine Mendelssohn found publishing an entirely de-
Lang'scompositions and encouragedthe efforts sirable activity. On the contrary, he considered
of young Emily Moscheles, the daughter of his it a necessary evil for the professional composer
friend the pianist Ignaz Moscheles. He could because it required a continuous production of
also critique women's music if he found it want- musical works, even if not always of the high-
ing, but he laughed at JosephJoachim's surprise est caliber, rather than their sporadic appear-
at Clara Schumann's ability to write a fugato ance.31Even when she did decide to publish,
and because Joachim "would not believe that a Fanny Hensel did not view it in the same light,
woman could have composed something so but wrote to her friend Angelica von Woringen
sound and serious."27Possessing a highly criti- that it was an experiment that she could give
cal temperament, Mendelssohn nonetheless re- up if it did not meet with success.
served some of his highest praise for his sister's
compositions.28In 1829 he wrote to Fannyabout I'm glad that you, dear Angela, are interested in the
her Lieder: "But truly there is music which publication of my Lieder. I was always afraid of
seems to have distilled the very quintessence of being disparagedby my dearest friends, since I've
music, as if it were the soul of music itself- expressed myself against it my whole life and right
up to the present years. In addition, I can truthfully
say that I let it happen more than made it happen,
26CamillaCai, prefaceto FannyHensel (nee Mendelssohn), and it is this in particularthat cheers me.... If they
Songs for Pianoforte, 1836-1837, Recent Researchesin the want more from me, it should act as stimulus to
Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
22 (Madison, Wisc.: A-R Editions, 1994), pp. viii-ix. Cai achieve, if possible, more. If the matter comes to an
has suggested that Hensel's failure to publish in 1838 may end then, I also won't grieve, for I'm not ambitious,
have been due in part to the death of Adolph Schlesinger, and so I haven't yet had the occasion to regret my
her chief advocate at the Schlesingerpublishing firm. decision.32
27SeeMendelssohn's praise of Lang in a letter dated 6 Oc-
tober 1831 in Reisebriefevon Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
aus den Jahren 1830 bis 1832, ed. Paul Mendelssohn
Bartholdy(3rd edn. Leipzig:Hermann Mendelssohn, 1862; 29Letterof 25 August 1829, in A Life in Letters, p. 96.
rpt. Mainz: Drei Briicken,n.d.), pp. 287-88; his critique of 30Letterof 30 January 1836, in Briefe 1833-47, p. 114:
a Lied by an unidentified woman in Felix Mendelssohn: A "Wie ich aber alle Deine Sachen lieb habe, und nun gar
Life in Letters, ed. Rudolf Elvers, trans. Craig Tomlinson die, die mir so recht an's Herz gewachsen sind, das weifIt
(New York:Fromm, 1986), pp. 272-73; and his encourage- Du."
ment of Emily Moscheles in Aus Moscheles' Leben: Nach 31See Johann Christian Lobe, Fliegende BlOtter fur die
Briefenund Tagebuchern,ed. Charlotte Moscheles, 2 vols. Musik 1, no. 5 (1855), 280-96; trans. Susan Gillespie as
(Leipzig:Duncker & Humblot, 1872-73), II, 54. Joachim's "Conversationswith Felix Mendelssohn," in Mendelssohn
anecdote is found in Briefe von und an Joseph Joachim, and His World, ed. R. LarryTodd (Princeton: Princeton
ed. Johannes Joachim and Andreas Moser, 3 vols. (Berlin: University Press, 1991), p. 191.
Julius Bard, 1911-13), II, 79, quoted in Nancy B. Reich, 32Letterto Angelica von Woringen, 26 November 1846,
Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca: quoted in Citron, The Letters of Fanny Hensel, p. 352, n. 9
Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 228. (Citron's trans. modified): "Du, liebe Angelica, Dich fur
28Kamen'sbiography mentions that Felix praised Fanny's die Herausgabemeiner Liederinteressirst, freut mich, ich
music, but never includes any specific quotations, although hatte eigentlich immer Angst, von meinen liebsten
she relies heavily on quotations from the siblings' corre- Freunden gemifibilligt zu werden, da ich mich mein
spondence throughout the book. Lebenlang u., bis in meine jetzigen Jahreentgegengesetzt

117
19TH As RudolfElvers'spublication of Mendelssohn's mother was written duringhis honeymoon jour-
CENTURY
MUSIC letters to German publishers and Peter Ward ney; his new wife, Cecile Jeanrenaud,was al-
Jones'sessay on the composer'sconvoluted deal- ready pregnant in June of 1837,36 so it is likely
ings with their English counterpartsreveal, the that the physical dangers associated with
numerous aggravations involved in publishing pregnancy and childbirth would have been
were to be brought on oneself only if neces- especially apparent to him at that time.
sary.33That Felix Mendelssohn left a large per- Mendelssohn's refusal to encourage his sister
centage of his compositions unpublished, in- to publish was partly a desire to save her from
cluding such major works as the "Reforma- any additional stresses that might negatively
tion" and "Italian" Symphonies, further dem- affect her health, a concern that seems justi-
onstrates his ambivalence. While modern schol- fied, given her early death from stroke at the
ars like Citron identify publishing as a bound- age of forty-one.
ary between "amateur"and "professional"and The emphasis on Felix as villain in Fanny's
emphasize its importance in establishing a life narrative is at the expense of an under-
composer's place in the canon, Fanny Hensel standing of the larger social and cultural con-
appears merely to have seen it as a source of text in which this supposed domestic drama
personal motivation.34 took place. Nancy Reich has pointed out that
Paul Mendelssohn's original publication in- Fanny's inability to have a professional career
cludes only a portion of Felix's letter about as a musician was due to her upper-class status
Fanny to his mother. The rest of the letter as much as her gender.37 Criticism of
documents his concern with his sister's health. Mendelssohn's purportedlysexist refusal to en-
The ongoing poor health of both Fanny and courage his sister to publish lacks the histori-
Felix was, as was typical, carefully censored cal understandingthat, for an upper-class nine-
from nineteenth-century publications of their teenth-century woman, receiving money for
letters, since it was considered too private and musical activities meant compromising her so-
inappropriate for the reading public. Modern cial position, and Fanny's social position was
research by Phyllis Benjamin and Peter Ward made more precarious by her status as a con-
Jones has revealed that Fanny had a stillbirth or verted Jew. As late as 1888, an article in the
miscarriage in November of 1832 and again in Musical Times found it laudable that Fanny
March of 1837.35Mendelssohn's letter to his Hensel did not undertake a "descent" into the
arena of publishing.38Reich's research, with its
more complex view, is not easily assimilated
ausgesprochen habe. Auch kann ich mit Wahrheit sagen, into a dramatic story of family conflict.39
ich habe es mehr geschehn lassen, als gethan, u. das ist es, The story of Fanny's "suppression" fre-
was mich eigentlich freut.... Wird mehr von mir verlangt,
so soil es mir ein Spornseyn, wo m6glich mehr zu leisten,
hat die Sache damit ein Ende, so werde ich mich auch
nicht grimen, denn ich bin nicht ehrgeizig, u. so habe ich
bis jetzt noch nicht Gelegenheit gehabt, meinen Entschlufi forcible abortion of her talent" (see pp. 245 and 247). In
zu bereuen" (emphasis added). doing so, she continues Western culture's essentialist as-
33FelixMendelssohnBartholdy,Briefean deutsche Verleger, sociation of women with the body.
ed. RudolfElversand H. Herzfeld(Berlin:de Gruyter,1968); 36SeeWard Jones, The Mendelssohns on Honeymoon, p.
Peter WardJones, "Mendelssohn and His English Publish- 52.
ers," in Mendelssohn Studies, ed. R. Larry Todd (Cam- 37NancyB. Reich, "The Power of Class: FannyHensel," in
bridge:CambridgeUniversity Press, 1992),pp. 240-55. Mendelssohn and His World, pp. 86-99. See also Reich's
34MarciaJ. Citron, "Gender,Professionalism and the Mu- "Women as Musicians: A Question of Class," in Musicol-
sical Canon," Journalof Musicology 8 (1990), 106. ogy and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Schol-
35Phyllis Benjamin, "A Diary-Album for Fanny arship, ed. Ruth A. Solie (Berkeleyand Los Angeles: Uni-
Mendelssohn Bartholdy,"Mendelssohn Studien 7 (1990), versity of CaliforniaPress, 1993), pp. 125-46.
213. Benjamin believes that Fanny had a stillborn child, 38"FannyMendelssohn," Musical Times 29 (1 June 1888),
probably a girl, on 1 November 1832. See also Mendels- 341.
sohn's letter to Fanny expressing his concern over her 39Fanny's wealth and privilege are overlooked or
later miscarriage, 14 April 1837 (The Mendelssohns on downplayed in many biographical accounts; compared to
Honeymoon, pp. 138-40), also his letter to his mother-in- many of her female contemporaries she would appearto
law, Elisabeth Jeanrenaud,on 15 April expressing concern be considerably less "oppressed."A common critique of
(p. 141). Tillard's treatment of Fanny's miscarriage em- feminism is that it has been primarilyan upper-and middle-
ploys an analogy between her stillborn children and "the class movement for white women.

118
quently simplifies her publishing history and The meager available evidence suggests that MARIAN
WILSON
underestimates the degree to which she was the inclusion of Fanny'ssongs along with Felix's KIMBER
known during her lifetime. Although her op. 1 was not done at her expense. In a letter to Felix "Suppression"
of Fanny
did not appear until 1846, several of her com- of ca. 22 May 1830, referring to her songs in Mendelssohn
positions had appearedin print earlier. Her set- op. 9, Fanny writes "I shoved them down
ting of Ave Maria was published in England in Schlesinger's throat,"48implying an especially
the Harmonicon in 1832, two years after an active role on her part (and perhaps suggesting
article praising her musical abilities and de- the sort of resistance a woman attempting to
scribing how she composed "with the freedom publish her music might face). Marcia Citron
of a master."40Another song, Die Schiffende, hypothesizes that the situation is more com-
was published by Schlesinger in a collection in plicated and will be clarified by unavailable
1837;41 after hearing it performed at a concert Hensel diaries, suggesting that she, like others,
in Leipzig that year, Felix wrote to Fanny that believes that Fanny was taken advantage of.49
"I, for my part, give thanks in the name of the Nonetheless Felix himself appearsto have been
public of Leipzig and other places that you pub- completely forthcoming about Fanny's contri-
lished against my wishes."42Fanny published a butions to ops. 8 and 9. About his visit to
third Lied, Schloss Liebeneck, in a collection Queen Victoria in 1842, when the monarch
entitled Rhein-Sagen und Lieder in 1839.43 chose one of Fanny's Lieder to sing for him,
The publication that is often taken as the Mendelssohn jokingly wrote, "Then I was
primaryevidence of Felix's repressionof Fanny's obliged to confess that Fanny had written the
musical voice was the publication of six of her song (which I found very hard, but pride must
songs in his ops. 8 and 9 in 1827 and 1830.44 have a fall)."50
Kamen, like many others, assumes that this Additional evidence suggests that a wider
was done without Fanny's permission, calling public knew about Fanny's authorship of the
this a "dishonorableact."45Many writers exag- songs in question. As early as 1830 Thomson
gerate the story further or stop just short of reported in the Harmonicon that three of
stating that Felix stole his sister's songs. Charles Mendelssohn's best songs were actually by his
Gounod's incorrect assertion in his autobiogra- sister.51Sebastian Hensel wrote that people be-
phy that Fanny had written many of Felix's lieved more of Felix Mendelssohn's published
Lieder ohne Worte was repeated in many later compositions were by Fannythan actually were,
publications about her, adding weight to the and Max Muller maintained that everyone knew
story.46Tillard emphasizes that there is no evi- which songs were hers, rather than Felix's.52 To
dence to contradict Gounod.47The suggestion suggest that Felix deliberately"stole" his sister's
is that Felix not only silenced his sister but compositions and denied her authorship also
robbed her of her voice, usurping a fame that ignores the larger cultural context that made it
should have been hers. not uncommon in the early nineteenth century
for women writers or composers to publish
anonymously or under the designation "by a
40"AveMaria," Harmonicon 10, no. 2 (1832), 54-55; J. T. lady." Even the Mendelssohn siblings' scandal-
[John Thomson], "Notes of a Musical Tourist,"
Harmonicon 8, no. 1 (3 March 1830), 99.
41NeueZeitschrift fir Musik 6 (26 May 1837), 167-68.
42Letterof 7 March 1837, Hensel, Die Familie Mendelssohn, 48Letterof May 1830, Citron, The Letters of Fanny Hensel,
480: "Ich meinesteils bedanke mich im Namen des p. 100, original German, 436: "Ichhabe sie Schlesingernin
Publikums zu Leipzig und den anderen Orten, daf Du es den Rachen gejagt."
gegen meinen Wunsch doch herausgegebenhast." 49Citron,Gender and the Musical Canon, p. 99.
43Rhein-Sagenund Lieder (Cologne: J. M. Dunst, 1839), 50Letterto Lea Mendelssohn, 19 July 1842, in Hensel, Die
cited in Citron, The Letters of Fanny Hensel, p. 356. Familie Mendelssohn, p. 650: "Nun muBte ich bekennen,
44Theseare nos. 2, 3, and 12 in op. 8 (Heimweh, Italien, daBiFanny das Lied gemacht hatte (eigentlich kam es mir
and Suleika und Hatem) and nos. 7, 10, and 12 in op. 9 schwer an, aberHoffartwill Zwang leiden)."
(Sehnsucht, Verlust, and Die Nonne). 51J.T. [JohnThomson], "Notes of a Musical Tourist," p.
45Kamen,Hidden Music, pp. 39-40. 99.
46CharlesGounod, Memoires d'un artiste (4th edn. Paris: 52Hensel,Die Familie Mendelssohn, p. 480; F. Max Muller,
Calmann-Levy,1896), p. 131. Auld Lang Syne (New York: C. Scribner'sSons, 1898), p.
47Tillard,Fanny Mendelssohn, p. 130. 25, rpt. in Mendelssohn and His World,pp. 254-55.

119
19TH ous aunt, Dorothea Schlegel, whose divorce, for women, virtue rewarded with marriage,
CENTUCRYremarriage, and conversion to Catholicism dem- which Solie has described.55
onstratedthat she was certainly capableof flout- Modern biographershave not yet figured out
ing social conventions, had published her novel how to tell the story of Fanny Hensel, who,
Florentin (1801) not under her own name, but like many important women of her time, led
under the reported "editorship"of her husband what Jean Strouse has called a "semiprivate"
FriedrichSchlegel. life.56Although, accordingto Dee Garrison,"the
feminist biographer realizes that the private
Fanny Hensel lived, of course, in a male-domi- life is no less real or important than the public
nated society. That her talent and her music one,"57to write the biography of Hensel is to
did not find wider recognition is undeniably place her in a tradition that has its roots in
unjust. The cultural conditions in which she male lives, and the dramatic narrative of the
lived, however, cannot be solely attributed to "great man" is typically derived from his
her brother.Why then, given the evidence, does struggles to achieve success in public life. How
the story of the suppression of Fanny Hensel does one devise a "plot" for a woman who
persist? Fanny's life story is complicated by married, had a son, hosted salons in her home
both the male models underlying biography as and composed music, and died at forty-one?
a genre and the resulting difficulties involved Lacking the material for a typical male narra-
in telling women's stories. There is certainly tive and abandoning stereotypical female plots,
evidence that Fanny was placed in traditional Fanny Hensel's would-be biographerfinds her-
women's narratives: Sebastian Hensel's treat- self at a loss. Here is a woman who was largely
ment of her as a "good woman" was echoed in happy in her personal life, was wealthy enough
many later writings, and she serves as "muse" to enjoy travel, art, and music, and had suffi-
to Felix in several mid-nineteenth-century writ- cient leisure time to produce over four hundred
ings.53 In late-nineteenth-century accounts, compositions. Where is the "story?" Fanny's
Fanny's life story is sometimes a romance; its musical frustrations, and there are indications
drama stems from her parents' reluctance to that she was sometimes frustrated,58must take
approve her engagement to Wilhelm Hensel, center stage to give the narrative the required
and its resolution occurs with his return
from Italy and their marriage. Unlike Sarah
55Soliealso identifies the "bad girl" biographical model,
Rothenberg's recent interpretation of Fanny's for women who deliberately and rebelliously defy the so-
longing to go through the St. Gotthard Pass in cial prescriptions for their gender through their artistic
1822 as her frustration with the limits of con- pursuits ("Changingthe Subject,"p. 56). I have not found
temporary gender restrictions, Marianne Fanny Hensel portrayed in this manner in either nine-
teenth- or twentieth-centuryliterature,in spite of her even-
Kirlew's 1905 account presents this as longing tual choice to publish her music.
for the man she loves across the Alps in Italy.54 56JeanStrouse, "SemiprivateLives," in Studies in Biogra-
Such depictions conform to a common story phy, ed. Daniel Aaron (Cambridge,Mass.: HarvardUniver-
sity Press, 1978),pp. 113-29.
57Dee Garrison, "Two Roads Taken: Writing the Biogra-
phy of Mary Heaton Vorse,"in The Challenge of Feminist
Biography:Writingthe Lives of ModernAmerican Women,
ed. SaraAlpern et al. (Urbana:University of Illinois Press,
53See,for example, William Rounseville Alger, The Friend- 1992),p. 77.
ships of Women (Boston:Roberts Brothers, 1868), pp. 76- 58See,for example, her letter to Karl Klingemann, 15 July
77; and Elise Polko, "VersunkeneSterne,"in Musikalische 1836, in Hensel, Die Familie Mendelssohn, p. 481, lament-
Mdhrchen, Phantasien und Skizzen (Leipzig: Barth, 1852), ing that her songs are unheardand unknown, adding, "and
pp. 206-11, trans. Henry Mason as "Sunken Stars," in in the end, even with interest in such things, one loses
New York Musical World 6 (9 July 1853), 150. Many thanks one's judgment about it, if it is never met by someone
to FrauJohannaSchraderfor graciously locating the origi- else's opinion, someone else's goodwill ... and that with
nal Germanversion of this essay for me. such complete lack of outside impetus I stay with it, I
54SarahRothenberg, "'Thus Far, but No Farther':Fanny myself interpretagain as a sign of talent" (undman verliert
Mendelssohn-Hensel'sUnfinished Journey,"Musical Quar- am Ende selbst mit der Lust an solchen Sachen das Urteil
terly 77 (1993), 691-92; Marianne Kirlew, Famous Sisters dariiber,wenn sich nie ein fremdes Urteil, ein fremdes
of Great Men: Henriette Renan, Caroline Herschel, Mary Wohlwollen entgegenstellt ... daft ich bei so ganzlichem
Lamb, Dorothy Wordsworth, Fanny Mendelssohn (Lon- Mangel an Anstofi von aufien dabeibleibe, deute ich mir
don: Thomas Nelson, 1905), pp. 253-54. selbst wieder als ein Zeichen von Talent).

120
drama, and Felix can be conscripted to serve as pression" fits neatly into a stereotypical bio- MARIAN
WILSON
villain. Tillard writes, "Did he really need to graphical narrative of the suffering artistic ge- KIMBER
crush her so completely, in order to fulfill his nius. Beethoven's deafness, Schubert's poverty, "Suppression"
of Fanny
own artistic potential?"59 and Robert Schumann's madness all qualify Mendelssohn
Not only is Felix depicted as the sole reason them for this story.65The father who opposed a
Fanny did not have a careerand the person who male composer's career choice is often a stan-
"forbade" her to publish her music, but his dardbiographicalfeature;Abraham, who wrote
dramatic function spills over into other aspects to his daughter that music should only be an
of her biography as well. Felix's positive rela- "ornament" for her, not "the 'ground bass' of
tionships with other women musicians are your being and doing," fits the role perfectly.66
sometimes portrayed as further betrayal of his Fanny's lack of a public careerplaces her in the
sister; Kamen's biography suggests that Fanny same narrative with male artists who suffer
was jealous of both Clara Schumann and Jenny from misunderstandingand neglect duringtheir
Lind,60although there is no documentary evi- lifetime, only to receive widespread acclaim
dence for such an idea. In Diane Jezic's book on after their deaths. Her early death gives the
women composers, Felix's lessons in counter- tale a tragic pathos and links her to Mozart,
point for Josephine Lang are decried as encour- Schubert, and numerous male contemporaries.
agement that he would not give his own sister, As art historian Linda Nochlin writes, "The
overlooking Hensel's early training and the fact artist, in the nineteenth-century Saints' Leg-
that she surely did not need her brother's tech- end, struggles against the most determined pa-
nical assistance on such a rudimentary level.61 rental and social opposition, suffering the slings
In Kamen's biography, Felix is blamed for the and arrows of social opprobriumlike any Chris-
devastating emotional desertion of his sister. tian martyr, and ultimately succeeds against
Disregardingtheir voluminous correspondence, all odds-generally, alas, after his death-be-
Kamen writes that Fanny had "a deep hurt cause from deep within himself radiates that
because of the nearly total separation from the mysterious, holy effulgence: Genius."67 The
'twin' who had filled her early years."62 story of Fanny's unfortunate fate is actually an
The story of the suppression of Fanny Hensel
has taken hold because it so readily conforms
to predetermined biographical models for the
life of a "Great Composer," models based in Dictionary. In the current "resurrection"of Fanny Hensel,
the name of her famous brother, decried for overshadow-
Romantic ideology about male artists. "To be ing her, ironically continues to dominate. (Hence, the title
great, in patriarchalculture," writes Booth, "is of this article.)
to resemble the male hero."63Fanny Hensel, 65Interestin Clara Schumann has increased, in part, be-
cause her life featured much suffering, an abusive father,
part of the nineteenth-century Germanic tradi- and an unhappy childhood. SusannaReich's fine children's
tion, is biographically similar to the sort of biography emphasizes this when she writes that for
male composer who stands at the core of the Schumann, music "enabledher to bear the misfortunes of
a difficult life." (Susanna Reich, Clara Schumann: Piano
canon.64Most importantly,the story of her "sup- Virtuoso [New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999], p. 100.)
Clara's story, however, more frequently centers on the
obstacles she overcame to marry Robert Schumann; in
this she conforms more closely to the women's plot that
59Tillard,Fanny Mendelssohn, p. 315. culminates in marriage.The first half of Nancy B. Reich's
60Kamen,Hidden Music, pp. 53-54. excellent and well-balanced biography, Clara Schumann:
6'Diane Peacock Jezic, Women Composers: The Lost Tra- The Artist and the Woman, the only part of the book
dition Found (New York: Feminist Press of City Univer- structured as a chronological narrative, closes with the
sity of New York, 1988), p. 84. death of Robert Schumann and the end of her heroine's
62Kamen,Hidden Music, p. 47. marriage. It is almost as if after the marriage plot is ex-
63Booth,"BiographicalCriticism and the 'Great' Woman hausted, the book is unable to sustain a conventional nar-
of Letters,"p. 91. rative structure.
64Thissimilarity extends to the composer's name; though 66Letter of 16 July 1820, in Hensel, Die Familie
she spent the bulk of her adult life as Fanny "Hensel," Mendelssohn, p. 124: "Nur Zierde, niemals Grundbafi
her current identity is usually formulated as "Fanny Deines Seines und Tuns." While the Mendelssohn family
Mendelssohn."Both Tillard'sand Kamen'sbiographiesuse has been criticized for its role in Fanny's supposed sup-
this name in their titles, and the composer is listed under pression, it was the Mendelssohn family that produced a
"Mendelssohn" in the second edition of the New Grove woman of such musical capabilities to begin with.

121
19TH old tale, merely modified by the gender trans- review of a new edition of the Gartenlieder in
CENTURY
MUSIC formation of the central character. the Musical Times in 1879 assumed that "these
The modern telling and retelling of the sup- songs, by Mendelssohn's sister, are already
pression of Fanny Hensel represents a "story" known to most lovers of partmusic."73In 1892,
in itself-a rescue plot in which modern women when Antonin Dvorak was quoted in the Bos-
rediscover Hensel and somehow "save" her ton Post as saying that women have no creative
from historical obscurity.68Such feminist re- power, George Chadwick responded, "there is
covery relies on the assumption that Hensel the case of Mendelssohn's sister, who wrote as
was forgotten, but recent research has uncov- good a trio as Mendelssohn ever produced."74
ered a wide range of published writing about While these indications do not necessarily sug-
Hensel dating from the years between 1830 and gest that Fanny Hensel's music received wide-
1920.69 She is discussed in articles, reviews, spreadperformances, they do demonstrate that
biographical dictionaries, publications about her compositions did not languish in total ob-
women composers, and collective biographies scurity and were known in cultivated musical
of famous women, and is the subject of one circles.
full-length book published in France in 1888.70 These publications demonstrate that the cur-
Although the bulk of her music remained un- rent emphasis on Hensel's desire to publish
published, her biography, transmitted through and her limitation to the domestic sphere is
Sebastian Hensel's Die Familie Mendelssohn, not the result of a new feminist understanding
received wide circulation. of her life; these ideas also found a voice in
Moreover, small clues suggest a wider dis- writings from a hundred years ago. In particu-
semination of the meager body of available pub- lar, Florence Fenwick Miller's 1892 essay "A
lished compositions than might otherwise be Genius Wasted" expressed outrage about
assumed. Clara Schumann performed two Fanny's predicament more virulent than any-
Lieder by Fanny Hensel on a concert in thing published since. Miller assumed that
Gottingen in 1855.71The pianist Otto Dresel's Fanny's published compositions were her only
performance of Hensel's op. 11 Piano Trio in output and blamed Abraham, Felix, and
Boston in 1856 met with a laudatory review in Wilhelm Hensel for Fanny's restriction to the
Dwight's Journalof Music, which claimed that domestic sphere,writing: "Butthat a girl should
in its "sustained strength, indeed, it exceeds be discouraged, and neglected, and postponed
some favorite productions of the brother."72A to her brother's interests, brought up with her
powers undeveloped, and sent to the gravewith
them atrophied by disuse, having all her life
67LindaNochlin, "WhyHave There Been No GreatWomen
Artists?" in her Women, Art and Power and Other Essays long had her original gifts distorted to serve the
(New York:Harperand Row, 1988), p. 155. purposes of another-oh that is an intolerable
68Ido not mean to imply that this "rescue"is negative or injustice and cruelty!"75 Both James Parton,
that research on historical women is not needed. I have
engaged in this "rescue" myself in my writing regarding
writing in Daughters of Genius in 1886, and
Cecile Jeanrenaud Mendelssohn. See Marian Wilson Marianne Kirlew in Famous Sisters of Great
[Kimber],"Mendelssohn's Wife: Love, Art and Romantic Men in 1905, recognized that the social climate
Biography,"Nineteenth-Century Studies 6 (1992), 1-18. In had changed since Fanny Hensel's lifetime.
some sense, this article itself could be construed as a form
of "rescue."
69See Marian Wilson Kimber, "Zur frihen Wirkungs-
geschichte Fanny Hensels," trans. Bettina Brand,in Fanny
Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy:Komponierenzwisch- 73"SixFour-PartSongs,"Musical Times 20 (1 March 1879),
en Geselligkeitsideal und romantischerMusikdsthetik,pp. 159 (emphasis added).
248-62. 74"AmericanMusic: Dvorak Thinks Little Has Been Done
70E.Sergy (pseud.of Noemie Koenig),Fanny Mendelssohn: Here," Boston Daily Traveler(10 December 1892), in Rob-
D'apres les memoires de son fils (Paris:Fischbacher,1888). ert Winter, Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, From the
71BetholdLitzmann, Clara Schumann: An Artist's Life, New World [CD-ROM](New York: Voyager, 1994). It is
trans. and abridgedGrace E. Hadow, 2 vols. (4th edn. Lon- not clear where Chadwick encountered Hensel's trio; per-
don:Macmillan, 1913;rpt. New York:ViennaHouse, 1972), haps it was during the years 1878-79 when he attended
II, 119. the Leipzig Conservatory.
72"OttoDresel's Soirees," Dwight's Journalof Music 8 (1 75FlorenceFenwick Miller, In Ladies' Company: Six Inter-
March 1856), 174. esting Women (London:Wardand Downey, 1892),p. 138.

122
Kirlew, like Miller, believed that Fanny's abili- story, a "what if?" episode. If Felix had behaved MARIAN
WILSON
ties were "crippledand confined"by her father's differently, if he had encouraged Fanny to pub- KIMBER
assertion that she must restrict herself to "femi- lish, if she had published numerous composi- "Suppression"
of Fanny
nine actions,"76 though Parton wrote, "Living tions, what then? Nannette Kaplan Solomon Mendelssohn
when she did, and where she did, her cheerful writes, "Certainly,a more pro-active role would
obedience was wise."77 and could have changed Fanny's ultimate
The "recovery"of Fanny Hensel depends on fate."81Would Fanny have had "a brilliant ca-
her having been "lost" in the first place. Booth reer"? Would her music have met with wide-
has recognized that scholars have built "a col- spread acclaim? This is our wish, even if it
lective history for women ... upon a founding sometimes goes unstated. Gloria Steinem's bi-
fiction of their past obliteration, adhering to ography of Marilyn Monroe describes an alter-
the same genderideology that dictates women's native future for her subject, saved from sui-
historical marginalization in the first place,"78 cide by the women's movement, elderly yet
a situation reflected in the current Hensel "re- autonomous, and engaged in useful philan-
vival." The problem of Hensel reception is not thropic work.82But to envision an alternative
that her life was forgotten, but that current end to Monroe's or to Hensel's life is to create
biographical treatment of her life has so little historical impossibilities.
new to offer, merely reworking Sebastian The reviews of the music Fanny did publish
Hensel's portrayalof his mother for contempo- that appeared in the Wiener Allgemeine
raryconsumption. SarahRothenberg's 1993 ar- Musikalische Zeitung and the Neue Zeitschrift
ticle, "'Thus Far, but No Farther': Fanny fiir Musik demonstrate that, despite her talent,
Mendelssohn-Hensel's Unfinished Journey,"79 Fanny'sgenderwould always be an issue. While
even takes as its title the same quotation that the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung reviewer
Parton used a century ago: "But she was a offers high praise, placing Hensel's Lieder with
woman, and the traditions of all the past ages, those of Schubert and Schumann and her
speaking to her with the voice of her father, brother, he also describes them as the "unaf-
said: Thus far, and no farther!"80 fected expression of a harmless, deeply feeling
It is certainly possible, even given the more feminine spirit." He refuses to "apply the scal-
complex evidence now available, to continue pel of analytical criticism to these gifts of
to reproachFelix Mendelssohn for his failure to charming feminine feeling," partly in ordernot
urge his sister to publish. Placing blame on to have to admit to himself that he has "not
Felix is part of a subtext to the story of Fanny's found a single one which might have had the
suppression, a subtext that is more often im- power to open up to you a new world, to prop-
plied than directly articulated,but which some- erly excite you."83The reviewer of Hensel's op.
times surfaces in the more popular sources. 1 in the Neue Zeitschrift similarly complains:
The lament over Fanny's life situation gives "Our hearts are not moved, for we miss the
way to envisioning an alternative ending to the feeling that originates in the depths of the

76Kirlew,Famous Sisters of Great Men, pp. 249-50.


77JamesParton, Daughters of Genius: A Series of Sketches
of Authors,Artists, Reformers,and Heroines, Queens, Prin- "Nanette KaplanSolomon, review of Fanny Mendelssohn
cesses, and Women of Society, Women Eccentric and Pe- by Fran9oiseTillard, American Music Teacher 47 (April-
culiar (Philadelphia:HubbardBrothers, 1886), p. 124. The May 1998), 113.
chapteron Fanny is reprintedin Parton'sEminent Women: 82GloriaSteinem, Marilyn (New York: Henry Holt, 1986),
A Series of Sketches of Women Who Have Won Distinc- esp. "Who Would She Be Now?" pp. 157-80. See also
tion by Their Genius and Achievements as Authors, Art- Quilligan, "RewritingHistory," pp. 266-67.
ists, Actors, Rulers or within Precincts of the Home (New 83Wienerallgemeine musikalische Zeitung 17 (8 May 1847),
York:J.W. Lovell, 1896). 223: "Ausdruckeines harmlosen tieffiihlenden, weiblichen
78Booth,"Lessons of the Medusa,"p. 280. For an example Gemithes ..."; "Ichwill es unterlassen, an diese Spenden
of "feminist recovery" in music, see Susan McClary, "Of eines so liebenswiirdigen weiblichen Gemuthes das
Patriarchs . . . and Matriarchs, Too," Musical Times 135 Secirmesser der analysirenden Kritik anzulegen .... Du
(1994),364-69. hast ja . . . doch keinen einzigen gefunden, welcher dir
79Rothenberg,"'Thus Far,but No Farther',"pp. 689-708. eine neue Welt erschlossen, dich eigenthumlich anzuregen
80Parton,Daughters of Genius, p. 124. vermocht hatte."

123
19TH soul."84 In a later review in the Allgemeine "Dashed Hopes," and Kamen writes that "her
CEMNTUcRY musikalische Zeitung, the critic again refuses brother's lack of encouragement to publish her
to be overscrupulous about form, voice-lead- music was a terrible blow," and that "the battle
ing, and other matters of technical execution, within grew more desperateas she grew older."89
because the works embody the "ewig There is some evidence that Hensel was musi-
Weibliche" (the eternal feminine); the implica- cally frustrated, but her frustration seems to
tion seems to be that these "feminine" works have been less about any inability to have a
would not withstand critical analysis.85 The public career than about the lack of social in-
review of op. 2 in the Neue Zeitschrift says tercourse with other musicians of her tempera-
that three of the four Lieder lack "the indepen- ment and stature, of hearing good performances
dent development of ideas."86Other reviews of music, and of having good performersfor her
are even less complimentary; one notes that salon concerts. Certainly, much of this might
Fanny's striving after imitation of a post- have been eliminated from her life if she could
Beethovenian style "goes over very frequently have had a career. Hensel, however, was as
to the extreme of the tormented, affected, much a product of her time and her culture as
stilted, unnatural, thereforeunmusical."87Even her brother; any degree of frustration specifi-
the best reviews suggest an emptiness of con- cally with being female and confined to the
tent in Fanny's music or undercut their praise domestic sphere is difficult to document. The
with a condescending tone toward a female mere two or three comments that might be
composer. "Had Madame Hensel been a poor interpreted as such are quoted and requoted,
man's daughter,"wrote Henry Chorley in 1865, although an express longing to perform pub-
"she must have become known to the world licly or to have her music widely circulated are
. . as a female pianist of the very highest in no way ongoing themes of Hensel's corre-
class."88Chorley did not say that Fanny would, spondence.90When requesting Felix's support
however, have been a professional composer. for publishing in 1836, she described herself as
That Fanny Hensel composed at all meant that ambivalent, a "donkey between two bales of
she far exceeded contemporaryexpectations for hay," her husband who was for it and Felix
her gender.It would have taken the entire trans- who was against it.91When Hensel did finally
formation of the culture, not merely the en- decide to publish, she declared herself "no
couragement of her younger brother, to have femme libre."92It is possible to interpret these
enabled Fanny Hensel to have a successful pro- comments as stemming from the not untypical
fessional career.Here is undoubtedly where the defensiveness, the covering of one's tracks93
real trouble lies, not in the interrelationships common among women of achievement who
of the Mendelssohn family. in some way challenge social mores, but in
Modern retellings of Hensel's life dwell ex- general the tragic frustration that biographers
tensively on the deep sense of frustration that attribute to Fanny is largely of their own con-
Hensel supposedly felt. Tillard's biographycon- struction.
tains a chapterabout Fanny'sadolescence called

89Kamen,Hidden Music, pp. 59 and 61.


90SeeRothenberg, "'Thus Far, but No Farther',"pp. 691-
84Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik 26 (1 February 1847), 38: 93, for these. Rothenberg bases much of her article on
"Doch sind wir nicht im Innersten ergriffen, denn wir Fanny's 1822 comment that if she had been a boy she
vermissen die Empfindung,welche aus der Tiefe der Seele would have forged ahead over the St. Gotthard pass into
quillt." Switzerland,and reads it as a metaphor for Fanny's entire
85Wienerallgemeine musikalische Zeitung 17 (29 May life. Fanny's longing, however, was a literary convention
1847), 259. of travel writing, also found in the writings of Goethe and
86NeueZeitschrift fur Musik 26 (11 January1847), 14: "den others. Considering that Fanny was happiest during her
selbststandigen Ideengang." 1839-40 trip to Italy, I think it is easily possible to read
87Philokales,Wiener allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 17 her youthful longing for Italy as simply longing for Italy,
(18 December 1847), 606: "Das Extrem des Gequalten, not for release from contemporarygenderrestrictions.
Gesuchten, Geschraubten, Unnatiirlichen daher 91Letterof 22 November 1836, Citron, The Lettersof Fanny
Unmusikalischen." Hensel, p. 222.
88Chorley,"Mendelssohn's Mother and Sister," pp. 210- 92Letterof 9 July 1846, ibid., p. 349.
11. 93Solie,"Changingthe Subject,"p. 57.

124
Some feminist scholars would say that mod- No such tortured comments can be attributed MARIAN
ern writers are giving Fanny the voice she was WILSON
to Fanny Hensel. KIMBER
not able to have due to the cultural restrictions The purpose of the act of biographical "res- "Suppression"
of her time. Tillard writes, "Fanny remained of Fanny
cue" is often less about its subject than about Mendelssohn
frustrated.... Although not really aware of the the need to provide role models for living
injustice that had been done her, she was none- women. As Sharon O'Brien observes, "Biogra-
theless its victim,"94 incongruously claiming phy can give us stories of other women's lives
for Fanny a frustration due to conditions she that can help us to invent or reinvent our
did not notice and the expectations of a time own."99Kathleen Barry's comments on Susan
not her own. Quilligan describes the differences B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton apply
in feminist writing about past cultural con- equally well to women composers: "Many
texts: "Feminist biography does not expect to women have identified with them, likened our
learn the 'truth' of a characterin the old sense struggle to theirs, and have taken courage from
of the term, because the 'truth' of the indi- their spirited lives."'00 Citron notes that his-
vidual belongs to a different ideology."9sRuth torical women can serve as "foremothers" for
Perry,biographerof early English feminist Mary aspiring female musicians.'10 The contempo-
Astell (1666-1731), admits that writing of her rary composer Betsy Jolas's comments on the
subject as a feminist is to "reinvent her-with dust jacket of Tillard's biography are one ex-
her collaboration and the aid of historical hind- ample: "This excellent book has literally
sight."96The dangeris that the goal of feminist changed my life. I mean my life as a composer
biography becomes the creation of a discourse and, more precisely in this case, as a woman
based on what "women might have said."97To composer. Now at last I understand why there
write a biographybased on what Fanny Hensel are still so few of us worth mentioning around
or what any woman did not say is, at best, the world."
problematic. In addition, a look at the writings What current writers on Hensel often fail to
of other talented German women in the early recognize is the act of biographical transfer-
nineteenth century reveals some women who ence central to their act of rescue; it is their
were able to voice their frustrations. For ex- frustration with Hensel's life, rather than hers,
ample, the poet Karolinevon Gunderrodewrote that they are actually documenting. Many bi-
in 1801, ographers,including feminist biographers,have
acknowledged their deep personal identifica-
I often had the unfemininewish to die a hero's tion with their subject. Dee Garrison recog-
death,to throwmyselfinto the wildnessof battle,to nizes that "all scholars to some degree choose
die-why was I not borna man!I have no taste for their topics in order to enact the main themes
femalevirtuesandfemalebliss. Only what is wild, of their own lives."102Paul MurrayKendallgoes
great,brilliantattractsme. This is an unhappy,but further, noting that "any biography uneasily
incorrigiblemisapprehension of my soul;thus it will
andmustremain,forI am a womanandhavedesires shelters an autobiography within it."103While
like a man,withoutthe strengthof a man.98 a biographer's identification with his or her
subject can work toward a more realistic bio-

94Tillard, Fanny Mendelssohn, p. 226.


95Quilligan, "Rewriting History," p. 268.
96Quoted in Quilligan, "Rewriting History," p. 283. 99Sharon O'Brien, "Feminist Theory and Literary Biogra-
97InterpretingWomen's Lives: Feminist Theory and Per- phy," in Contesting the Subject, p. 128.
sonal Narratives, ed. Personal Narratives Group 10?Kathleen Barry, "Toward a Theory of Women's Biogra-
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), p. 286. phy: From the Life of Susan B. Anthony," in All Sides of
98Karoline von Gunderrode to Gunda Brentano, 29 August the Subject: Women and Biography, ed. Teresa Iles [The
1801, in Karoline von Giinderrode:Der Schatten eines Athene Series] (New York: Teachers College Press, 1992),
Traumes; Gedichte, Prosa, Briefe, Zeugnisse von p. 28.
Zeitgenossen, ed. Christa Wolf (Darmstadt: Luchterhand, "'Citron, Gender and the Musical Canon, p. 226.
1981), p. 138, quoted and translated in Gerda Lerner, The 02Garrison, "Two Roads Taken," p. 68.
Creationof Feminist Consciousness:Fromthe Middle Ages '03Paul Murray Kendall, The Art of Biography (London:
to Eighteen-Seventy (New York: Oxford University Press, George Allen & Unwin, 1965), p. x, quoted in the intro. to
1993), p. 239. The Challenge of Feminist Biography,p. 10.

125
19TH
CENTURY
graphicalportrayal,it also has its dangers.Gar- Postmodern scholarship goes a step further
MUSIC rison acknowledges, "The only trouble lies in a in challenging the idea that "the past is real
self-identification with one's subject that is and that the truth of it can be recoveredthrough
unexamined and, hence, uncritical of itself"; storytelling."'09 Some scholars readily admit
biographers "may project their own desires on they do not intend to attempt to deliver the
their subjects."l04 "real" biographical subject to their reader, as
The tone of much contemporary writing deconstruction works well for a feminist story.
about Fanny Hensel reflects a personal identifi- "Quite simply," writes O'Brien, "we make ev-
cation and a modern woman's wish to save her erything up."110Fay Weldon writes: "Better, if
from her historical situation and cultural con- the biographerhas a glimmer of the single thin
text. Victoria Sirotahas recalledidentifyingwith consistent thread that runs through a life, to
Fanny as a mother while researching her dis- give up fact and take to fiction.""'
sertation in Berlin.'05Francoise Tillard writes: If feminist biography and women's history
"There is much ground to make up here, yet I as a whole are to have any validity, they must
am proud to have pointed the way, and it is my not abandon a historical method that believes
hope that I have made people love her."'06The in evidence and replace it with fiction. This
subtext of much Hensel biography resembles commitment sometimes means telling a story
what Virginia Woolf wrote about George Eliot: that we wish was different. While it might be
"I can see already that no one else has ever more satisfying from a traditional feminist per-
known her as I know her ... and I only wish spective to tell a story in which Fanny Hensel
she had lived nowadays, and so been saved all is deeply tormented by her desire for a profes-
that nonsense."'07Although many performers sional careeras a musician, the actual evidence
and scholars are dedicated to the publication for such torment is slim. SaraAlpern has writ-
and performanceof Hensel's music, much writ- ten: "As a feminist, there were times when I
ing about Hensel, including Tillard's acclaimed wanted the story to come out differently. As a
biography,is largely not about her music at all. historian I had to tell what I found.""12All
In this it ironically perpetuates the very obscu- biographersare, to some degree, subjective-it
rity of Fanny's music that it seeks to criti- is simply unavoidable-but a biographeris ul-
cize.108 timately "an artist under oath"1'3and must be
true to the historical record as much as pos-
sible. Theorists such as Barthes and Foucault
'04Garrison,"Two Roads Taken," p. 68; ed. Carol Ascher,
Louise DeSalvo, and SaraRuddick,intro. Between Women: assert that there is no way to write biography
Biographers,Novelists, Critics, Teachers,and Artists Write without doing some fundamental violence to
about Their Workon Women (Boston:Beacon Press, 1984), one's subject; as we have seen, such violence is
p. xxiv.
'05Victoria Sirota, "Rediscovering of Fanny Hensel- a result of using predeterminedparadigms,mod-
Mendelssohn" in Kontrapunkt 1998, Furore Verlag Edi- els into which an individual's life is poured,
tion 864, pp. 122f., online at www.klassik.com/de/maga- thus reshapingit in accordancewith the model.
zine/people/hensel/sirota.htm,accessed 13 December2000.
106Tillard,Fanny Mendelsssohn, p. 339; see also Gloria
Kamen's description of her "search"for Hensel in "Find-
ing Fanny,"Book Links 8 (May 1999), 18-19.
'07TheLetters of Virginia Woolf, ed. Nigel Nicolson and
Joanne Trautmann, 6 vols. (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich,1975-80),II,321-22, quotedin Booth,"Biographi-
cal Criticism and the 'Great'Woman of Letters,"p. 93. l09GordonS. Wood, "Star Spangled History," New York
'08Forscholarshipthat deals more specificallywith Hensel's Review of Books (12 August 1982), 8, quoted in O'Brien,
music, see, for example, Camilla Cai, "Fanny Hensel's "Feminist Theory and LiteraryBiography,"p. 123.
'Songsfor Pianoforte'of 1836-37: Stylistic Interactionwith "'O'Brien, "Feminist Theory and LiteraryBiography,"p.
Felix Mendelssohn," Journalof Musicological Research 14 131.
(1994), 55-76; Annegret Huber, "Inwelcher Formsoil man "'Fay Weldon, Rebecca West (Harmondsworth:Penguin,
Fanny Hensels 'Choleramusik' auffiihren?"Mendelssohn 1985), p. 20, quoted by Teresa Iles, conclusion to All Sides
Studien 10 (1997),227-45; FannyHensel, geb. Mendelssohn of the Subject, p. 162.
Bartholdy: Das Werk, ed. Martina Helmig (Munich: edi- 112SaraAlper, "In Searchof FredaKirchwey:FromIdenti-
tion text + kritik, 1997); and Fanny Hensel geb. fication to Separation,"in The Challenge of Feminist Bi-
Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Komponieren zwischen ography,p. 172.
Geselligkeitsideal und romantischer Musikisthetik. 13Garrison,"Two Roads Taken," p. 67.

126
Instead, it is the biographicalmodels that must complicating the task of presenting women as MARIAN
WILSON
be rethought. William Epstein writes, historical actors."17 KIMBER
Fanny is also "coopted" when she functions "Suppression"
of Fanny
If an oppositionalagendais goingto make a differ- only as a symbol of the suppression of women Mendelssohn
ence (andwhat else is it supposedto do?),if the within the dominant patriarchalculture, which
emergenceinto culturalconsciousnessof thosewho finds personification in her oppressive brother.
havebeenrepressedby theirrace,gender,class,sexu- Her story ceases to be the story of an individual
ality, etc., is goingto disruptand (someday, some- artist and is instead "the story of many women
how)help to changethe social,economic,political, of the past whose abilities and talents were
andculturalrelationsthathaveinducedsuchrepres-
restricted due to the beliefs and practices of the
sion, then the "disciplinary technology"into which
the interpretive"violenceof orderis transmitted" times they lived in," as a reviewer of Kamen's
must be disrupted.14 biography described it.118To write a biography
of a female artist with the assumption that
Epstein points out that "the discursive prac- "each woman's story is molded by a pattern,
tices of biographical recognition are powerful more or less the same pattern"119 only
agencies of cultural coercion historically aligned reinscribes the essentialist gender division that
with dominant structures of authority. They feminist biographysupposedly seeks to critique.
cannot be simply and harmlessly appropri- Quilligan has written: "In exhuming a persis-
ated."115 tent pattern in the lives of particular women,
Biographical narratives that either attempt and thereby proving that culture is stronger
to make Fanny Hensel's life conform to models than the individual . . . feminist biography is
used for male composers or to promote her as a positioned at an ideological crossroads that is
suppressed feminist hero are both highly prob- perilous to its character as biography . . . it
lematic. As Epstein notes, although biography seems that this privileged [male] position of
is "the instrument by which cultural outlaws individuality is to be whisked away as a cul-
(... among whom we might list the heroines of tural illusion before any woman can become
a new feminist discourse ... ) can emerge into sufficiently autonomous to occupy it."'20 To
social consciousness and thereby assert their concentrate largely on Felix's opposition to
difference, it is also the means through which Fanny'spublishing is to weaken Fanny'sagency,
they can be co-opted by a discursive formation to portrayher as male-dependent; thus she ulti-
that stresses the 'original' sameness of all bio- mately fails as a feminist role model. Kamen's
graphicalsubjects."16This cooption can mean, biography in particular presents a stultifyingly
as we have seen, devising a plot for a female dutiful, deeply unhappy, and perennially pas-
subject so that she will fit preconceived male sive Fanny. One wonders how such a woman
models. As a nineteenth-century upper-class could command our interest. She merely de-
German woman, Fanny, however, was unable serves our pity, and she is certainly no fitting
to transcend the sufferinggenius stereotype and
achieve the public success possible for a male
subject. The tale of Fanny transmitted through "7Rohan Maitzen, "'This Feminine Preserve': Historical
Die Familie Mendelssohn, in which she either Biographies by Victorian Women," Victorian Studies 38
submits to or is repressed by the wills of her (1995), 380.
relatives, relies on nineteenth-century gender 11Beth A. Lawry, review of Hidden Music: The Life of
Fanny Mendelssohn by Gloria Kamen, family.go.com/Fea-
stereotypes that "minimized the scope of, or tures/family_1998_01pitt/pitt 18book/pitt18book.html,ac-
even the possibility of, female agency, thereby cessed 13 December 2000.
19Quilligan, "RewritingHistory," p. 261.
"20Ibid.Solie has made a similar point in her article on
"Feminism" in the New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edn., vol.
8, p. 665: "Postmodernism's positing of an unstable and
fragmented subjectivity seems to many to put into ques-
14WilliamH. Epstein, "(Post)ModernLives:Abducting the tion the category 'women' in a way that would disable
BiographicalSubject,"in Contesting the Subject, p. 229. feminist work, and to make inaccessible the notions of
115Ibid. authority and intention that are central to the historical
ll6Ibid.,pp. 226-27. interpretationof women's productivity."

127
19TH role model for our daughters. Nonetheless, as be possible to write a feminist biography of
CEMNTURY Nina Auerbach has contended, "positions of FannyHensel that recognizes the culturalforces
victimization do not consign one to powerless- that we now find unjust without portrayingher
ness."'21That Fanny did begin to publish, and life as a failure, as Tillard portrays it when she
presumably would have continued to do so, writes, "Fanny . . . did not really tackle life
demonstrates that she was capable of acting head on, did not complete her life's work, and
and was able to overcome some of the cultural never reached her full potential."'24 Alice
obstacles in her way. James's dying request of her brother seems ap-
The danger of telling only the story of re- plicable here: do not depict me as what I might
pression is that feminist biography will not have been.125
serve as a force for the recovery of women into Thus, the story of Fanny's "suppression"is
history, but rather a continual documentation neither accurate, new, nor feminist in its ori-
of their failures. Fanny Hensel was arguably gins or construction. The difficulties encoun-
one of the best-trained, talented, and prolific tered in telling the story of Hensel's life reveal
female composers of her time; she produced a need for a feminist biography that balances
excellent Lieder and piano music, a fine piano an understanding of larger cultural constraints
trio, and a large body of compositions. She was with recognition of individual female agency.
influential in the musical lives of her brother Centering Hensel's biography on her brother's
and of Charles Gounod. Fanny had, by contem- comments rather than on her eventual publica-
porary accounts, a strong character;her letters tion of her music both denies her the power she
reveal a formidable intellect, a sometimes bru- did have in life and oversimplifies the histori-
tally sarcastic sense of humor, and an intoler- cal situation for women composers, replacing
ance for people and ideas she found not to her the manifold issues surrounding gender and
liking. The year after her death, Sarah Austin class with a single male villain. Adoption of
described her as "a woman of strong sense, either traditional male or feminist models for a
strong feeling, unbending probity; cordial, sin- nineteenth-century female composer's biogra-
cere, and constant in her attachments; but she phy creates a story that centers on a woman's
did not lay herself out to please indifferent failure to achieve public success, a story that
persons.... She was too proud, independent, does more to undermine the "recovery"of his-
and upright, for the smallest affectation." She torical women composers than it does to cri-
was, for Austin, someone who "commanded tique the patriarchal conditions in which they
my respect."'22It does not do justice to Hensel lived.
or her music to portray her only as a woman
who did not publish, and who, "if her father
and younger brother had not deliberately sup-
pressed her talents ... might have been a com- 124Tillard,Fanny Mendelssohn, p. 14. For an example of a
poser in the same league as Felix."123It should successful feminist biography of a female composer who
might have been portrayed merely as oppressed by her
domestic situation and unable to meet her full potential,
see Judith Tick, Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer's
'21Citedin Quilligan, "RewritingHistory," p. 271. Searchfor American Music (New York:OxfordUniversity
122Mrs. [Sarah] Austin, "Recollections of Felix Press, 1997).
Mendelssohn," Fraser'sMagazine for Town and Country 125Letterto William James, 30 July 1891, in The Death
37 (April 1848), 427-28. and Letters of Alice James, ed. Ruth BernardYeazell (Ber-
123F.Warren O'Reilly, review of Fanny Mendelssohn by keley and Los Angeles:University of CaliforniaPress, 1981),
Francoise Tillard in American Record Guide 59 (1996), p. 187: "Praydon't think of me simply as a creaturewho
282. might have been something else."

128
APPENDIX MARIAN
WILSON
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy to Lea Mendelssohn Bartholdy KIMBER
Reproducedby permission of Douglass Seaton "Suppression"
of Fanny
Mendelssohn
Frankfurt, letter excerpt from 24 June 1837 (New nor of the musical world, nor even of music, except
York Public Library): when this first vocation is fulfilled. Having [some-
thing] printed would only intrude into this, and I
You write to me about Fanny's new pieces and just cannot reconcile myself to that. I will not per-
tell me I ought to persuade her and provide her the suade her to do this, forgive me. But don't show
opportunity to publish them. You praise her new these words either to Fanny or to Hensel, who would
compositions to me, and that is really not neces- take it very badly from me or surely misunderstand-
sary, in that I look forwardto them very much, and better that nothing at all be said of this. If Fanny, on
regardthem as beautiful and excellent; for I do know her own initiative, or for Hensel's sake, decides on
from whom they come. Also I hope I need not say a it, I am, as I said, ready to be as helpful to her as I am
word [about the fact] that, as soon as she herself able, but to urge [her]on to something that I do not
decides to publish something, I will, as much as I consider right, this I cannot do.
can, provide the opportunityfor this and take all the Please write to me again whether these big social
trouble from her, thereby sparing her from it. But gatherings that Fanny gives and the music-making
persuade her to publish something I cannot, for it is in them do not take their toll on her. I have always
against my view and conviction. We have spoken become very exhausted by this, and since Fanny,too,
much about this earlier, and I am still of the same often suffers from weak nerves, as I do, I really think
opinion-I consider publication to be something se- she must be very careful of herself in this regard.
rious (at least it ought to be that) and believe that And will it not do at all for her to go to the seaside
one should only do it if one wants to present oneself resort? It is such a splendid cure, so decisively in-
and continue one's whole life as an author. For this vigorating, that I would like it very, very much if she
a series of works is required,one after the other; one did it; and if I could part so soon after marrying
or two alone is only an annoyance to the public, or Cecile, she can certainly, after many years of mar-
it becomes a so-called vanity publication [literally, riage, be apart from her husband for a short time.-
"a manuscript for friends"],which I also do not like. You write that it is not necessary, but if it did her
And Fanny, as I know her, has neither desire nor good andreallyinvigoratedand refreshedher, it would
vocation for authorship;in addition, she is too much indeed be worth the sacrifice. Oh, please advise her
a wife, as is right, brings up her Sebastian and takes to do it, dear Mother, and I will write a few ^
care of her house, and thinks neither of the public lines to her myself and pester her about it. 'UP

129