King Ludwig and Wagner, and (right) Wagner with Cosima
EXTRACT FROM: Barry Millington 1992 Wagner (The Master Musicians Series). London: J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, pp 74-6.
Having occupied the royal castle Schloss Berg, overlooking Lake Starnberg (south West of Munich) [Prince] Ludwig [of Bavaria] installed Wagner at the Villa Pellet, just across the lake. Almost every day they met, sometimes contemplating each other in complete silence – a love relationship without the physical element. Wagner, as ever, was looking for fremale companionship. He wrote to Mathilde Maier begging her to come to Villa Pellet as ‘housekeeper’. In a letter addressed to her mother (who never received it) Wagner gave assurances that his intentions were strictly honourable. Nothing came of the suggestion, chiefly because Wagner was already entangled in another direction. The previous November he and Cosima von Bulow had found themselves alone, taking a carriage ride through Berlin. Cosima had never been really happy with Hans. He suffered from neurotic disorders, including a severe inferiority complex, and Cosima had married him more out of pity than affection. Now she and Wagner instinctively recognised in each other the profound sorrow of unsatisfied love. In a passage suppressed from Mein Leben and not published until the complete text was made available in 1963, Wagner described how they sealed, with sobs and tears, the avowal that they belonged to each other.
And so when, at Wagner’s invitation, Cosima, her two young daughters and a nurserymaid arrived at Starnberg (Bulow had been delayed in Berlin), Wagner had hurriedly to break off his overtures to Mathilde Maier. That Wagner was pressing Mathilde at the very time he was expecting a visit from Cosima can presumably only be explained by the assumption that Wagner was not prepared for Cosima’s total acquiescence. All we know is that some time during the week before Hans arrived on 7 July the couple consummated their union; their first child, Isolde, was born on 10 April 1865.
In October 1864 Wagner moved into the spacious house at 21 Briennerstrasse in Munich, made available to him by the king. In addition to the initial payment already made, Ludwig had authorised an annual stipend of 4000 Gulden (comparable to that of a ministerial councillor), another gift of 16000 Gulden in June and a further 4000 Gulden for removal expenses. Now on 18 October Ludwig became the third owner of the Ring copyright for a sum of 30 000 Gulden. Martin Gregor-Dellin points out that the 131, 173 Gulden paid out by the royal exchequer represented one third of the annual sum that the king had at his disposal, or one tenth of his entire civil list.
The Munich house was decked out in a similarly luxurious fashion to the one in Penzing and with the help of the same Viennese milliner and seamstress, Bertha Goldwag, that had supplied his furnishings before. She sent him the special coloured satins he could not obtain in Munich and in addition to his velvet drapes and portieres he requested for himself a wardrobe of dressing gowns and suits in silk lined with fur (in various colours with matching slippers and neckties), shirts and underclothes in silk and satin, and delicate scents with which to perfume the atmosphere. Bertha made two visits to Munich, travelling incognito according to Wagner’s wishes. To allay the curiosity of customs officials she told them that her cargo of silks and perfumes was for a countess in Berlin. In spite of her discretion, Wagner’s style of living could not long remain a secret and his enemies were to make much capital out of it. Wagner’s letters to his Putzmacherin, setting out his requirements in exotic detail, fell into the hands of an unscrupulous journalist who published them in 877, still in the composer’s lifetime. His voluptuous tastes have earned him much snide criticism, on grounds of both extravagance and of a decadence which has been seen to smack of ‘effeminacy’ and ‘degeneracy’. Wagner, for his part, claimed that he needed sumptuous surroundings and sensual perfumes as a stimulus for creative inspiration. Given his psychological make-up and the predominant role of eroticism, there is probably much truth in that. Nor can he be blamed for the necessity to minister to his sensitive skin. These hedonistic years, however, must have been a testing time for his devotion to Schopenhauerian philosophy with its welcoming acceptance of suffering and renunciation.