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My Life — Volume 1   By: (1813-1883)

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This eBook was produced by John Mamoun with help from Charles Franks and the Online distributed proofreading website

My Life, Volume 1

By Richard Wagner



PART I. 1813 1842 PART II. 1842 1850 (Dresden)


The contents of these volumes have been written down directly from my dictation, over a period of several years, by my friend and wife, who wished me to tell her the story of my life. It was the desire of both of us that these details of my life should be accessible to our family and to our sincere and trusted friends; and we decided therefore, in order to provide against a possible destruction of the one manuscript, to have a small number of copies printed at our own expense. As the value of this autobiography consists in its unadorned veracity, which, under the circumstances, is its only justification, therefore my statements had to be accompanied by precise names and dates; hence there could be no question of their publication until some time after my death, should interest in them still survive in our descendants, and on that point I intend leaving directions in my will.

If, on the other hand, we do not refuse certain intimate friends a sight of these papers now, it is that, relying on their genuine interest in the contents, we are confident that they will not pass on their knowledge to any who do not share their feelings in the matter.

Richard Wagner


Part I. 1813 1842

Childhood and Schooldays Musical Studies Travels in Germany (First Marriage) Paris: 1839 42

Part II. 1842 1850 (Dresden)

'Rienzi' 'The Flying Dutchman' Liszt, Spontini, Marschner, etc. 'Tannhauser' Franck, Schumann, Semper, Gutzkow, Auerbach 'Lohengrin' (Libretto) Ninth Symphony Spohr, Gluck, Hiller, Devrient Official Position. Studies in Historical Literature 'Rienzi' at Berlin Relations with the Management, Mother's Death, etc. Growing Sympathy with Political Events, Bakunin The May Insurrection Flight: Weimar, Zurich, Paris, Bordeaux, Geneva, Zurich

ILLUSTRATIONS [not shown in e text]


Richard Wagner in 1842, from the Portrait by E. Kietz.


Richard Wagner about 1872 by Lenbach.

Original in the possession of Frau Cosima Wagner These frontispieces are used by the courtesy of Mr. F. Bruckmann.



1813 1842

I was born at Leipzig on the 22nd of May 1813, in a room on the second floor of the 'Red and White Lion,' and two days later was baptized at St. Thomas's Church, and christened Wilhelm Richard.

My father, Friedrich Wagner, was at the time of my birth a clerk in the police service at Leipzig, and hoped to get the post of Chief Constable in that town, but he died in the October of that same year. His death was partly due to the great exertions imposed upon him by the stress of police work during the war troubles and the battle of Leipzig, and partly to the fact that he fell a victim to the nervous fever which was raging at that time. As regards his father's position in life, I learnt later that he had held a small civil appointment as toll collector at the Ranstadt Gate, but had distinguished himself from those in the same station by giving his two sons a superior education, my father, Friedrich, studying law, and the younger son, Adolph, theology.

My uncle subsequently exercised no small influence on my development; we shall meet him again at a critical turning point in the story of my youth.

My father, whom I had lost so early, was, as I discovered afterwards, a great lover of poetry and literature in general, and possessed in particular an almost passionate affection for the drama, which was at that time much in vogue among the educated classes... Continue reading book >>

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