13. 17 November 1970 [ES]
much obliged for your prompt and helpful response to my appeal. I should have asked you first. Another time, I will. We'll be thinking round the possibilities of private tuition – including the financial aspects, to which you very rightly draw attention. But we start with some credit by discontinuing the present lessons. That'll be a double relief. Next to the pleasure of acquiring a new mistress is the pleasure of losing an old one, as Congreve (admittedly in a different context) pointed out.
I'm easily confused about Schumann. But I would have though that brain syphilis was in a very real sense a mental affliction, not a physical one. (unless minds are off their heads, or heads out of their minds). After all, it began in 1844/5 with mental symptoms (music in his ears, or playing on his mind) and led to a mental hospital. If it was indeed syphilis affecting his brain, as Slater suggests, I can't imagine it was much more beneficial to his composition than it was to his constitution, namely not very. No doubt the deterioration was gradual and its onset insidious. And I'm wholly with you about being opposed to prejudice (I'm even prejudiced against it, which in turn may be going too far). But the acme we among so many. The rest of the world has known for a hundred years that Schumann last period music is decline, and if the cause was syphilis of the brain which was manifesting itself ten years earlier, then I don't really see how the obvious conclusion is to be avoided. As to the value of the music – on what grounds does one argue against a consensus?
As to Slater and Meyer; I think you'll find its the former that makes the running; hence the elder. He makes a great many mistakes of fact, and overlooks his main sources (Bötticher, available at the time for the past twenty years) so his actual scholarship won't be found widely impressive. Nor is what he says novel; Gruhle said syphilis (though politely) in 1906. So did Wörner in 1949. Perhaps it was, too. What about that finger – primary, would you say, or secondary?
yours, as ever