Johannes Brahms

Hermann Deiters, Rosa Newmarch, J. A. Fuller-Maitland
1888 The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular  
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more » ... T is always difficult to write a man's biography in his lifetime. In the Erst place, his career has not ended, and who can tell 11OW the doings of later years may affect the permanent estimate of his character and worth ? In the next piace, it is almost impossible to form a correct judgment while the person to be judged is so near, so much mised up with current affairs, and so intimately concerned in the investigations which must needs be a preliminary process. Strictly speaking, the biographer should deal with the dead, and the dead of ten years ago rather than ten days. Then only can he take the calm and comprehensive view, and act with the unZ shrinking honesty which are the essentials of his craft. The difficulty to which we have referred is found in a special degree where the subject to be treated has lived an inner rather than an outer life A moment's consideration will prove to the reader that there is a vast difference among men in this respect. Some are men of thought, others of action some discharge their mission before the eyes of the world, others do the same in solitude, some mark their course througb life by the exercise of personal attributes, others are known only through their works It is the invisible, almost impersonal, men of thought that give the biographer trouble. They furnish him with no story; and, their task unfinished, their career still incomplete, there is not sufficient data for the discharge of his highest functions. Yet it is needful sometimes or, at all events, desirable-not to wait for death before satisfying public curiosity concerning eminent men, and the desirableness exists sn exact proportion to the measure in which the subject of biography lives apart from the public gaze. Take, for example, the case of Johannes Brahms regarding whom English amateurs have long felt more or less desire for better acquaintance without being able to gratify it. Apart from short sketches in dictionaries of music, no Brahms literature has existed till very lately; and only within the last few days has the book appeared which is the Erst to deal with its interesting subject so as to be of use to English readers. Mr. Fuller-Maitland's preface to the work under review is brief and to the point. It emphasises in a few sentences the difficulties of contemporary biography in a case like that of Brahms:-" I he biographical part of the work is of necessity short, for not one of the giants of music has had so uneventful a career as has fallen to the lot of Brahms if we except SebastiZn Bach, with whom, in this and many other respects, our master may be fitly compared. Since there is no prospect of our seeing the greatest composer of our time in England, we might well have expected a little more information as to his actual outward appearance and manner-but we must thankfully accept what we can get, and not grumble because the author has chosen to emphasise the important features of his compositions, rather than * 'Johannes Brahms; a Biographical Sketch." By Dr Hermann Deiters. Translated, svith Additions, by Rosa Newmarch. Edited with a Preface, by J. A. Fuller-Maitland. London: Tt Fisher Unwin.
doi:10.2307/3359841 fatcat:xgsmbwmrxveadllsot34fnup6m