Wednesday October 12th, 2011

“The music delighted me like an expression of love.”

The letter below was written by Stendhal to his sister Pauline on Oct. 29, 1808:

The arts promise more than they perform. This idea — or, rather, this charming sentiment — has just been given to me by a German street-organ which played, as it passed through the street next to mine, a tune of which two passages are new to me — and, what is more, are charming, in my opinion. The tears almost came into my eyes.

The first time I ever took pleasure in music was at Novara, a few days before the battle of Marengo. I went to the theatre, where they were playing Il Matrimonio Segreto. The music delighted me like an expression of love. I think no woman I have had ever gave me so sweet a moment, or at so light a price, as the moment I owe to a newly heard musical phrase. This pleasure came to me without my in any way expecting it: it filled my whole soul. I have told you of a similar sensation that I once had at Frascati when Adele leant against me while we were watching fireworks: I think this was the happiest moment of my life. The pleasure must have been truly sublime, for I still remember it although the passion that caused it is entirely extinguished.