From Felix Mendelssohn: A Life in Letters, pages 200-203

To Fanny Hensel, Düsseldorf, November 14, 1854

Dear Fenchel,

Be happy this day and in the year which lies ahead of you and remain true to me. I wanted to send you this year again some piece or other under which I could write November 14, but these weeks of a director's life have swallowed up everything and I am only slowly returning to normal again. In recent days I have sketched the overture for St. Paul, and thought of finishing it at least, but work is far behind schedule. If only we could at least be together in the evening now, for when the candles are lighted I always wish I were at home even more than in the morning, and here they come now. And then, the time from the 30th of October through the 14th of November and the 11th of December up through Christmas and New Year's is not exactly the best time to be far from home, even if the evenings weren't long [those are the dates of birthdays in the family]. But then we can be diligent and go traveling again next summer and visit each other; today I only wish that it were possible already.

So what are you doing this evening? Making music and entertaining company? Or reading the newspaper aloud (in which I am told Hensel's school has been very highly praised and in many respects favorably compared with the one here). Or perhaps none of you are at home. I hope you are, and picture a pretty sight. I have spent the day monotonously enough, in that I had to sit for Hildebrandt all morning long - he is now fashioning my portrait. At noon I was at the Bendemanns' and will go to see them later on as well, since Madame Bendemann's birthday is also today. The poor woman is spending it dejected, for tomorrow she is traveling to Berlin with her husband, and must be having a hard time with separating herself from the children. But in my opinion they are doing the right thing by going back, at least recently I sat and listened to Herr Bendemann explain the reasons to me so convincingly that I had to acknowledge that he was right and was amazed that he spoke in such animated fashion about the matter, which I would not have expected from him. 

Eduard is a splendid and delightful person and such a good son that his mother's bad mood seems quite natural to me. But you, birthday child, our judgments about paintings are not in agreement this time, for Stilke's has always been one of the most repugnant to me; when a work of art tries to portray misery artificially, such as starving in the desert, then I have no sympathy for the picture at all or for the people, no matter how well executed it is, and it isn't even that. The whole thing seems to me nothing other than a variation on Lessing's Königspaar (Royal Couple), this time with dead horses. The mood of the work is prosaic, and even if he decks it out in bright colors twenty times over it doesn't help. So I don't even agree when you speak of the violin revolution since Paganini in connection with Lafont, for I know of no such revolutions in art, at least in any case not among these people, and I think they very same things about Lafont would even have displeased you if you had heard him before Paganini's appearance - and you would not praise his good sides less for having heard the other. I have just read a few new French musical journals here in which they are always talking of a révolution du gout and a musical upheaval which supposedly has been taking place in the last several years, in which I am supposed to be playing quite a role - such things make me feel quite nauseated. At such times I always think that one should be diligent and work hard, above all hate no one and leave the future to God, finish the oratorio by March, compose a symphony in E minor and a piano concerto and set out traveling again, and visit Leipziger Str. No 3. but if possible meet somewhere else. ... 


Felix MB