Mozart on Constanze: Tepid but Frank

In December 1781, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote a letter to his father Leopold, telling him he wanted to marry Constanze Weber. He might have been a brilliant composer, but when it came to describing his beloved, his skills did not transfer so well.

[I] must make you acquainted with the with the character of my dear Constanze. She is not ugly, but at the same time, far from beautiful. Her entire beauty consists of two little black eyes and a nice figure. She has no wit, but she has enough common sense to enable her to fulfill her duties of wife and mother. It is a downright lie that she is inclined to be extravagant. One the contrary, she is accustomed to being shabbily dressed, for the little that her mother has been able to do for her children, she has done for the two others, but never for Constanze. True, she would like to be neatly and cleanly dressed, but not smartly, and most things that a woman needs she is able to make for herself; and she dresses her own hair every day. Moreover she understands housekeeping and has the kindest heart in the world. I love her and she loves me with all her heart. Tell me whether I could wish myself a better wife?

Indeed. Perhaps the mystery of why Mozart was so enamoured of someone whom he could only bring himself to describe in such modest terms as above finds its solution in what preceded these words. For in the first part of the letter Mozart had written:

The voice of nature speaks as loud in me as in others, louder perhaps, than in many a big, strong lout of a fellow. I simply cannot live as most young men do these days. In the first place, I have too great a love of my neighbour and too high a feeling of honour to seduce an innocent girl; and, in the third place, I have too much horror and disgust, too much dread and fear of diseases and too much care for my health to fool about with whores. So I can swear that I have never had relations of that sort with any woman.

If such a thing had occurred, I should not have concealed it from you; for, after all, to err is natural enough in a man and to err once in this way would be mere weakness–although indeed I should not undertake to to promise that if I had erred once in this way, I should stop short at one slip. However, I stake my life on the truth of what I have told you. I am well aware that this reason (powerful as it is) is not urgent enough. But owing to my disposition, which is more inclined to a peaceful and domesticated existence than to revelry, I, who from my youth up have never been accustomed to look after my own belongings, linen, clothes and so forth, cannot think of anything more necessary to me than a wife.

When the ‘voice of nature’ is to be heeded, then perhaps little else matters. Even for a man as gifted as Mozart.

Source: Francis Carr, Mozart and Constanze, Avon Books, New York, 1983, pp. 34-36.

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