Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Romantic Excess

by | April 14, 2013 | 7 comments

I was a God-fearing child, innocent and physically unattractive.” — Robert Schumann, Diaries

Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) was the true Romantic pianist. He lived a life of excess in romance–closely chronicled in an environment of “devotion and tempestuous passion.” 

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann

Schumann originally started out studying law but left it for music, with the notion of becoming a virtuoso pianist. Then, in some obscure way, he suffered “an injury” to his hand and had to give up this dream:

“Schumann suffered from many afflictions…continuous general malaise, tinnitus, vertigo, insomnia, headache, depression, premonitions of insanity, numbness, cramp, difficulty in writing, speech disturbance, memory failure, a stroke, pains in bones and joints, florid psychosis, giddiness, general paralysis of the insane, and deterioration to death – to which one might add: manic depressive schizophrenia, a suicide attempt, and a hand problem” — http://www.pianisttopianist.com/?p=10

Faced with this failure. Schumann cast about for a remedy and found it in the daughter of his piano teacher. He could not expect to make money as a performing pianist, but Clara Wieck with her modest dowry might answer to the purpose. She was an aspiring pianist, with no injury to her own fingers. Her father naturally objected but Schumann persevered and when Clara was old enough, she decided for herself.

The day after they married, she came of age and control of her fortune came to Schumann. Clara seemed not to mind. He was creating melodious compositions just for her. These she played for others, creating a stream of income for them both.

They moved north, to an industrial German city where Schumann hoped to get a government job as musical director. Increasing mental illness made this impossible. There was one time when he was jeered by townspeople as he was fished out of the Rhine after a failed attempt to commit suicide. Directing an orchestra was out of the question. Worse, Schumann’s new protege, Johannes Brahms, fell violently in love with Clara and rumors surfaced they were lovers.

Rumors only. The real proof of Clara’s love became clear. Up until Schumann was incarcerated in a mental asylum, she had kept a joint diary with him. In it were alternate entries, made by both, marking an f-like symbol throughout the document.

Those were the nights they made love.




  1. Lani

    Lovely post! Schumann’s passionate emotions are clear in his music. How I wish we would have been kinder to our mentally ill then and now.

    • Angelyn

      Thanks, Lani–I believe there was a great deal of fear along with the misunderstanding that fueled cruel treatment of the insane.

  2. Gerri Bowen

    Very interesting as always, Angelyn. The best part about your blogs is I always learn some thing new.

    • Angelyn

      Thanks, Gerri–your compliment makes it all worthwhile!

  3. Ella Quinn

    Angelyn, this is such a good post. He was actually very good looking. I’m glad he had a good marriage, even though he was plagued with mental illness.

    • Angelyn

      I think he’s good-looking, too. That must have made things a lot easier for Clara, when all is said and done. Thanks for stopping by, Ella!

  4. joy smid

    There are some who think Clara was the greater talent.
    All in all they made a powerful threesome……Robert,Clara and Brahms!



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