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Berlioz’s Birthplace – La Côte Saint-André

Berlioz Memoirs, chapters 1-4

© Translated by Michel Austin

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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 1

La Côte-Saint-André. — My first communion. — First musical impression.

    I was born on the 11th of December 1803 at la Côte-Saint-André, a very small town in France in the department of Isère, between Vienne, Grenoble and Lyon. During the months preceding my birth, my mother, unlike Virgil’s, did not dream that she was about to give birth to a laurel branch. Painful as this admission may be for my self-esteem, I must add that she did not believe either, as did Olympias, Alexander’s mother, that she was bearing a firebrand in her womb. This is quite remarkable, I admit, but it is true. I came into this world in a perfectly ordinary manner, without any of the usual portents that were current in poetic times to proclaim the arrival of those predestined to glory. Could it be that our age is lacking in poetry?

    As the name indicates, La Côte-Saint-André is built on the slope of a hill, and dominates a fairly wide plain – a rich, golden and lush expanse of land, whose silence conveys a sense of dreamy grandeur, further enhanced by the surrounding chain of mountains to the south and east, behind which rise in the distance, laden with glaciers, the gigantic peaks of the Alps.

    I hardly need to say that I was brought up in the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome. This delightful religion (it no longer burns anyone) made me happy for a full seven years; we have long ceased to be on speaking terms, but I still retain extremely fond memories of that faith. I have in fact such a soft spot for it that, had it been my misfortune to be born during one of those schisms that arose under the heavy hand of Luther or Calvin, I would surely have seized the first moment of poetic intuition to renounce it solemnly and embrace with all my heart the beautiful Roman Catholic faith. I took my first communion on the same day as my elder sister [Nancy], in the Convent of the Ursulines where she was a boarder. This unusual circumstance conferred on my first religious act a gentle character that I remember fondly. The almoner of the convent came to fetch me at six o’clock. It was spring, the sun was shining, the poplars were rustling with the sound of a gentle breeze; there was a delightful fragrance in the air. I crossed the threshold of the holy place full of emotion. Once admitted to the chapel, with my sister’s friends all dressed in white around me, I awaited in prayer with them the moment of the solemn ceremony. The priest came forward, and once the mass had started I was wholly dedicated to God. But I received a rude shock when the priest, with that partiality and lack of courtesy which some men retain for their own sex even at the foot of the altar, invited me to come forward ahead of these charming young girls, who, I felt, should have preceded me. I came forward none the less, blushing at this undeserved honour. And then, at the moment when I was receiving the sacrament, a chorus of maiden’s voices intoned the eucharistic hymn. This filled me with a mystical and passionate emotion which I was unable to conceal from the eyes of the bystanders. I felt as though heaven was opening up before me, a heaven of love and chaste ecstasy, purer and a thousand times more beautiful than what I had so often been told about. Such is the marvellous power of true expression, the incomparable beauty of a melody that springs from the heart! This melody, so artlessly adapted to a religious text sung in a church ceremony, was that of the romance of Nina: “Quand le bien-aimé reviendra” [“When the beloved returns”]. I recognised it ten years later. Dear d’Aleyrac! What ecstasy in my young soul! To think that the tribe of musicians, with their short memories, nowadays hardly remembers your name!

    This was my first musical experience.

    In this way I became all of a sudden a saint, to the point of hearing mass every day of the week, taking part in holy communion every Sunday, and going to confess to the director of my conscience: ‘Father, I have not done anything…” “Well, my child, the worthy man would say, you must carry on.” This advice I followed only too well for a number of years.

Chapter 2

My father. — My literary education. — My passion for travel. —
Virgil. — First impact of poetry.

    My father (Louis Berlioz) was a doctor. It is not for me to assess his merits. I will only say this of him, that he inspired deep trust, not merely in our small town, but also in the neighbouring ones. He was always at work, as he believed it a matter of conscience for a man of integrity to be involved in the difficult and dangerous practice of the art of medicine. He felt he had to devote all his time to studying it to the best of his ability, as the life of his fellow human beings might depend on the survival of a single person. He has always done credit to his calling by following it in the most disinterested manner possible, as a benefactor of the poor and of the peasant population, rather than as a man who has to make a living from his profession. When in 1810 a competition was announced by the medical society of Montpellier on a new and important question in the art of healing, my father wrote a monograph on the subject which won the prize. I might add that the book was printed in Paris and that several famous doctors have borrowed ideas from it without ever quoting him. Good-natured as he was, my father was surprised by this, but would only add: “What does it matter, so long as truth prevails!” He has long ceased to practice, as his physical condition no longer allows him. He now spends his life in reading and meditation.

    He is a free thinker. In other words, he does not have any social, political or religious prejudices. But he had made such a categorical promise to my mother not to try in any way to divert me from the beliefs she regarded as essential for my salvation, that on a number of occasions, as I recall, he made me recite my catechism. Whether he did this through integrity, seriousness, or philosophical indifference, I confess I would be unable to do the same with my own son. My father has long been suffering from an incurable stomach complaint, which has many times brought him to death’s door. He hardly eats anything. Only the constant use of opium, on a steadily increasing basis, can revive his now flagging energies. A few years ago, discouraged by the terrible pain he was enduring, he took in one single dose thirty-two grains of opium. He later told me about this and confessed that his aim had not been to cure himself. This terrifying dose of poison, far from killing him as he hoped, dispelled his suffering almost at once, and restored him to health for a while.

    I was ten years old when he placed me in the little school at La Côte to begin the study of Latin. But he soon took me away, as he was determined to look after my education himself.

    What indefatigable patience my poor father showed, and what meticulous and intelligent care he devoted to teaching me himself languages, literature, history, geography, and, as will be seen presently, even music!

    Such a task, performed in this way, demonstrates uncommon care on the part of a father for his son, and very few fathers would be capable of emulating this. Yet I cannot believe that a family education of this kind is as valuable as an education at school, at least in some respects. Children remain in exclusive contact with their parents, their servants, and selected young friends, and thus do not get accustomed from an early age to the harsh realities of life in society. The real world of daily life remains for them a closed book. I know without doubt that in this respect I remained an ignorant and awkward young man up to the age of twenty-five.

    Although he demanded from me only a very limited amount of work, my father was never able to inspire in me a genuine taste for classical studies. To have to learn by heart every day a few lines of Horace and Virgil I found particularly hateful. I had the greatest difficulty in memorising this beautiful poetry and suffered mental agony in the process. My thoughts were running away right and left, and wanted to break loose from the path that was laid out for them. I would spend long hours in front of atlases, absorbed in the study of the complex patterns formed by the islands, capes and straits of the southern ocean and the Indian archipelago. I would brood over the creation of those distant lands, their vegetation, population, and climate, and was seized with an avid desire to visit them. This was the origin of my passion for travel and adventure.

    My father would rightly say of me in this respect: “He knows the name of every one of the Sandwich, Moluccas and Philippine islands; he knows the straits of Torres, Timor, Java and Borneo, and yet he is unable to say how many departments there are in France.” This thirst for knowing distant countries, in particular those of the southern hemisphere, was further intensified by the avid reading of everything connected with ancient and modern travels that I could find in my father’s library. Doubtless, had my birthplace been a seaport, I would have one day escaped on a ship to become a sailor, with or without my parents’ consent. My son has displayed the same instincts from a very early age. He is now on a French ship, and I hope he will follow a distinguished career in the navy, which he chose as his profession even before catching sight of the sea.

    After I had pondered for some time La Fontaine and Virgil, the feeling for the elevated beauty of poetry diverted me from these overseas dreams. Children are in general incapable of appreciating the depth lurking under the artless exterior of the French fable writer or the sophistication of style that is concealed by his rare and exquisitely natural manner. Long before him the Latin poet spoke to me of the epic passions that I was instinctively apprehending; he found the way to my heart and kindled my nascent imagination. How often, when construing to my father the fourth book of the Eneid, I felt my chest swelling, my voice coming under stress and breaking! One day, moved from the start by the sound of my voice as I translated the line:

At regina gravi jamdudum saucia cura,”

I was laboriously approaching the climax of the drama. But on reaching the scene when Dido expires on her funeral pyre, surrounded by the weapons she had received as a present from the perfidious Aeneas, and was shedding on this sadly familiar couch her own angry blood, I was obliged to repeat the dying woman’s despairing words, thrice rising on her elbow and thrice falling back again, describing her wound and the undying love that was raging in her breast, the cries of her sister, her nurse, her distraught women, and the painful agony which moved even the gods to send Iris to bring it to a speedy conclusion – my lips trembled, the words that struggled to come out were unintelligible. Then at the line:

Quaesivit coelo lucem ingemuitque reperta.”

at this sublime image of Dido searching for the light in the heavens and groaning when she had found it, I was seized with a convulsive shaking, and, unable to continue, stopped abruptly.

    It was one of those occasions when I appreciated most my father’s indescribable kindness. He could see how embarrassed and troubled I was with my own display of emotion, but he pretended not to have noticed anything. He suddenly got up, shut the book and said “Enough for today, my boy, I am tired!” I ran away to hide far from public gaze and to surrender to my Virgilian sorrow.


* Mémoire sur les maladies chroniques, les évacuations sanguines et l’acupuncture [Memoir on Chronic Diseases, Evacuations of the Blood, and Acupuncture], Crouillebois, Paris.

Chapter 3

Meylan. — My uncle. — The pink boots. —
The nymph of the Saint-Eynard. — Love in the heart of a twelve-year old.

    The fact is that I was already acquainted with that cruel passion, so well described by the author of the Eneid, a rare passion, whatever people may say, so ill-defined yet so potent with certain souls. It had been revealed to me at the age of twelve together with music. The circumstances were as follows.

    My maternal grandfather, whose name (Marmion) is that of the famed warrior of Walter Scott, lived at Meylan, a village located about six miles from Grenoble, near the borders of Savoy. The village and its surrounding hamlets, the Isère valley stretching at their feet, and the mountains of Dauphiné which join there the lower Alps, all form one of the most romantic spots I have ever admired. Every year my mother, my sisters and myself would usually go there to spend three weeks towards the end of summer. My uncle (Félix Marmion), who at the time was following in the glorious steps of the great Emperor Napoleon, would sometimes come and join us, hot from the breath of canons, adorned sometimes with just a spear wound, but on occasions with gunshot in his foot or a magnificent sabre-cut across his cheek. At the time he was still only a cavalry adjutant, a young man in love with glory. He was prepared to give his life for a glance from the Emperor, and believed that Napoleon’s throne was as firm as the Mont Blanc. Enthusiastic and charming, he was a dedicated violin player and could sing comic opera quite well.

    In the upper reaches of Meylan, close to the slope of the mountain, there was a small white cottage, surrounded with vineyards and gardens, from where there is a plunging view on the Isère valley. Behind are a few rocky hills, a crumbling old tower, woods, and the imposing mass of a huge rock, the Saint-Eynard: the place is evidently meant to provide the setting of a novel. That was the country house of Madame Gautier, who stayed there in summer with her two nieces, the youngest of whom was called Estelle. This name would have been enough to catch my attention; it was already dear to me because of the pastoral idyll of Florian (Estelle et Némorin) which I had found in my father’s library and read in secret over and over again. The real Estelle was eighteen, tall and elegant, with great eyes that smiled provocatively, hair that was worthy of adorning the helmet of Achilles, and feet, I will not say of an Andalusian but of a thoroughbred Parisian, and – pink boots! … I had never seen any before… You will laugh!… I must admit I have forgotten the colour of her hair (I believe they were black) and I cannot think of her without recalling the glitter of her great eyes and at the same time the little pink boots.

    Her sight gave me an electric shock; in a word, I was in love with her. I lived in a trance. I hoped for nothing… I knew nothing… but I felt a deep anguish in my heart. Entire nights I would spend in despair. During the days I would hide in the maize fields, in the secret corners of my grandfather’s orchard, like a wounded bird, suffering in silence. Jealousy, that pale companion of even the purest love, would torment me at the merest word spoken by any man to my idol. I still shudder when I think of the sound of my uncle’s spurs as he danced with her! Everyone at home and in the neighbourhood would make fun of this poor twelve-year old broken by a love beyond his strength. She was the first to have guessed it all, and I am sure she must have greatly enjoyed it. One evening there was a large party at my aunt’s. It was decided to play a game of prisoner’s base. To form the two enemy camps we had to divide ourselves into two equal groups, the men choosing their companions, and on purpose I was made to choose mine before everyone else. But I did not dare to move, my heart was beating too hard, and I lowered my eyes in silence. They all mocked me, then Mlle Estelle seized my hand, saying: “Well, I will make my own choice! I select M. Hector!” The pain of it – she too, cruel girl, was laughing, as she looked down on me from her towering beauty…

    No, time cannot change anything… other loves cannot obliterate the trace of the first one… I was thirteen when I ceased to see her… I was thirty when on my return from Italy through the Alps [in 1832], my eyes clouded over when I saw from a distance the Saint-Eynard, the little white cottage and the old tower… I still loved her… On arrival I learned that she had got… married and… all that follows. This did not cure me. My mother, who would sometimes tease me about my first passion, was perhaps wrong to play on me the trick I will relate. “Here, she said a few days after my return from Rome, is a letter I have been asked to hand over to a lady who should be passing by shortly in the stage-coach from Vienne. Go to the post-office, while they are changing the horses, ask for Mme F******* and give her the letter. Have a good look at that lady: I bet you will recognise her, though you have not seen her for seventeen years.” So I went to the post station, with no idea of what this was all about. When the coach arrived, I went forward with the letter in my hand, and asked for Mme F*******. “It is I, sir!” said a voice. It is her! said a dull thud in my chest. Estelle!… still beautiful!… Estelle!… the nymph of the Saint-Eynard, of the green hills of Meylan! It was the same demeanour, the same glorious hair, the dazzling smile!… But alas, where were the little pink boots?… She took the letter. Did she recognise me? I cannot say. The coach left. I returned home, still shaken by the event. “Come, said my mother looking at me, I can see that Némorin has not forgotten his Estelle.” His Estelle! cruel mother!…

Chapter 4

My father gives me my first music lessons. — My attempts at composition. —
Studies in osteology. — My dislike of medicine. — Departure for Paris.

    When I said above that music had been revealed to me at the same time as love, at the age of twelve, I should have said musical composition: for even before then I could sing at sight and play two instruments. It was again my father who had provided me with the rudiments of a musical education.

    By chance I had discovered at the bottom of a drawer I was searching a flageolet; I wanted to make immediate use of it, and tried in vain to play on it the popular song of Marlborough [the tune is the same as that of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”!].

    My father was very irritated by the whistling noises I was making, and told me to leave him in peace until he had time to teach me the fingering of that tuneful instrument and how to play the heroic song I had chosen. He did indeed succeed in teaching me both without too much trouble, and two days later I had achieved sufficient mastery to be able to entertain the whole family with my tune of Marlborough.

    You can doubtless sense my emerging talent for powerful wind effects (a biographer worth his salt would hardly fail to make this ingenious inference…). This gave my father the ambition to teach me to read music. He explained to me the basic principles of the art, and conveyed lucidly the purpose and function of musical notation. Soon after he put a flute in my hands, with Devienne’s method, and as with the flageolet, took the trouble to demonstrate the mechanism. I worked with such conviction that after six or seven months I had acquired a more than basic proficiency on the flute. Wishing to develop further the aptitude I was showing, my father then persuaded several wealthy families of La Côte to join him in bringing from Lyon a music teacher. The plan came off. A second violin from the Célestins theatre, who also played the clarinet, agreed to come and settle in our little backwater to try to inculcate music to its inhabitants. This was on condition of having a minimum number of guaranteed pupils, and a fixed salary for directing the military band of the national guard. His name was Imbert. He gave me two lessons a day. I had a nice treble voice, and soon I could sight-read without fear, sing quite pleasantly, and play on the flute the most complicated concertos of Drouet. My teacher’s son and I became close friends; he was a little older than myself and was already a competent horn player. One morning he came to see me, as I was about to set off for Meylan: ”What, you are off without saying good-bye to me! Let us embrace, as I may not see you again…’ I was taken aback by my young friend’s strange manner and the solemn way in which he had taken his leave. But the immense joy of seeing again Meylan and the radiant Stella montis soon made me forget it. Sad news greeted me on my return – the very day I had left, young Imbert, taking advantage of the temporary absence of his parents, had hanged himself in his house. The reasons for this suicide were never elucidated.

    I had discovered among some old books Rameau’s treatise on harmony, annotated and simplified by d’Alembert. But despite spending whole nights reading these obscure theories, I could not make any sense of them. To be able to understand the author’s meaning one needs in fact to have already mastered the science of chords and to have studied in depth questions of experimental physics on which the whole system is based. It is therefore a treatise on harmony for the exclusive benefit of those who know it. Yet I had the ambition to compose music. I would arrange duets as trios and quartets, but without being able to find chords or a bass which made any sense. But by dint of listening to quartets by Pleyel performed on Sundays by our local amateurs, and with the help of Catel’s treatise on harmony, which I had managed to obtain, I was finally able to penetrate, all of a sudden, the mystery of the formation and sequence of chords. I immediately wrote a kind of pot-pourri with six parts, based on Italian themes of which I had an album. The harmony seemed tolerable enough. Emboldened by this first step I ventured to undertake the composition of a quintet for flute, two violins, viola and bass, which was performed by three amateur players, my teacher and myself.

    It was a triumph. My father alone did not seem to share in the general plaudits. Two months later, another quintet. My father wanted to hear the flute part, before letting me attempt the full-scale performance, in the way of provincial amateurs who imagine that a quartet can be judged from the first violin part. I played the part to him, and at a certain passage he exclaimed: “Excellent, this is real music.” But this quintet was far more ambitious than the first and much more difficult; our amateur group were unable to give an adequate performance of it. The viola and cello in particular were all over the place.

    At that time I was twelve and a half. As can be seen, those biographers who have written, and still quite recently, that at the age of twenty I did not know my notes, are strangely mistaken.

    A few years after writing the two quintets I burnt them, but it is striking that when years later in Paris I was writing my first orchestral composition, the melody my father had approved in my second effort came back to mind, and I adopted it. It is the theme in A flat played by the first violins, soon after the start of the allegro of the Francs-Juges overture.

    After the sad and inexplicable end of his son, the unfortunate Imbert went back to Lyon, where I believe he must have died. He was succeeded at La Côte almost immediately by a much more talented musician named Dorant. An Alsatian from Colmar, he could play almost every instrument, and excelled on the clarinet, the cello, the violin and the guitar. He gave guitar lessons to my elder sister [Nancy] who had a good voice, but has not been endowed by nature with any musical instinct. She does like music, though she has never managed to read notes and cannot decipher even a romance. I was present at her lessons, and wanted to have some myself. Finally Dorant, who was an unusual artist and a man of integrity, suddenly went to see my father, saying “Sir, I cannot possibly continue my guitar lessons with your son! – Why so? Has he let you down in any way, or is he being lazy and making you despair of him? – Nothing of the sort, but this would be absurd, as he is as good as I am.”

    So you see – I had mastered three majestic, incomparable instruments, the flageolet, the flute and the guitar. Who could fail to recognise in this judicious choice the impulse of nature which was driving me towards the most immense orchestral effects and music on the scale of Michelangelo! The flute, the guitar and the flageolet!… I have never had any other skills as an instrumentalist, though these seem to me respectable enough as it is. But I am not being fair to myself: I could also play the drum.

    My father was against letting me start studying the piano, otherwise I would probably have become a formidable pianist, like countless others. He had absolutely no intention of making an artist of me, and was probably worried that the piano might establish too strong a hold on me and lead me deeper into music than he wished.

    I have often regretted not being able to play the piano; this skill could be of great use to me in many circumstances. But when I think of the frightening number of trivia that are produced with such ease day-in day-out – disgraceful compositions that would be beyond the reach of their authors if they had to rely on pen and paper and were deprived of their musical kaleidoscope – I have to thank my lucky stars for having been obliged to learn to compose in silence and with complete freedom. This has preserved me from the tyranny of fingering patterns, which are so damaging for creative composition, and from the seduction of commonplaces to which composers are exposed most of the time. But admittedly the countless devotees of such pieces express in my case the opposite regret; but this leaves me unmoved.

    My adolescent attempts at composition were tinged with deep melancholy. Most of my melodies were in minor keys. I was aware of this weakness but unable to avoid it. My thoughts were shrouded in the darkness where my romantic love of Meylan had confined them. In this state of mind, as I read and re-read Florian’s Estelle, I would probably have set to music sooner or later some of the numerous romances found in that insipid pastoral idyll, which at the time I found gentle. This I did not fail to do.

    Among other pieces I wrote a very sad one on words which expressed my despair at leaving the woods and the places honoured by the feet, illuminated by the eyes [La Fontaine, Les deux pigeons] and the little pink boots of my cruel beauty. This colourless poetry comes back to mind today together with the spring sunshine in London [April 1848], where I am beset by major worries and a terrible anxiety, seething with concentrated fury at having to face here as elsewhere so many absurd obstacles… Here is the first stanza:

Je vais donc quitter pour jamais
Mon doux pays, ma douce amie,
Loin d’eux je vais traîner ma vie
Dans les pleurs et dans les regrets!
Fleuve dont j’ai vu l’eau limpide,
Pour réfléchir ses doux attraits,
Suspendre sa course rapide,
Je vais vous quitter pour jamais.

    I burnt this romance, as well as the sextet and the quintets, before my departure for Paris, but the melody came discreetly back to my mind when in 1829 I undertook to write my Fantastic Symphony. It seemed to me to express exactly the overwhelming grief of a young heart in the first pangs of a hopeless love, and I adopted it. It is the melody sung by the first violins at the beginning of the largo in Part I of this work, which has the title: Dreams and Passions. I have not changed it in any way.

    In the midst of these various musical endeavours, while I was absorbed in reading, the study of geography, religious aspirations, and the alternating moments of calm and storm of my first love, the time was approaching when I had to prepare myself to follow a career. My father intended me to follow his profession, as none seemed to him more distinguished, and he had long given me indications of his purpose.

    My own feelings on the subject were far from favourable to his views, and on occasions I had displayed them forcefully. Without being fully aware of what I felt, I was looking forward to a career spent far away from the bedside of patients, hospitals and operating theatres. I did not dare to admit to myself what I had in mind, but was nevertheless determined to resist anything that might be done to direct me towards medicine. I read at the time the life of Gluck and Haydn in Michaut’s Biographie universelle, and this threw me in a state of great agitation. What wonderful glory, I said to myself thinking of those two famous men, what a noble art, and what joy to be able to pursue it on a grand scale! Then there was a seemingly trivial incident which moved me further in the same direction, and suddenly filled my mind with the dazzling perception of countless distant musical horizons that were both strange and grandiose.

    I had never seen a full score. The only pieces of music I knew were solfèges accompanied by a figured bass, flute solos or fragments from operas with piano accompaniment. But one day I came across a sheet of music paper with twenty four staves. On seeing this large number of lines, I immediately grasped the multiplicity of instrumental and vocal combinations that could be created by using them in an imaginative way. “What an orchestral score one could write with that!” I exclaimed. From that moment on my head was even more filled with musical excitement, and my hostility towards medicine only increased. But I was too frightened of my parents to dare to reveal anything of my ambitious thoughts. At that point my father enlisted the help of music to carry out a coup d’état; it was designed to disarm what he called my childish hostility and make me begin the study of medicine.

    With the intention of familiarising me quickly with the objects that would soon be constantly before my eyes, he had spread open in his study the huge Treatise on Osteology of Munro; it contained full-scale engravings which reproduced very accurately the different parts of the human skeleton. “Here, he said, is a work you are going to have to study. I do not suppose that you are going to persist in your hostility to medicine; it is unreasonable and entirely without foundation. But if, on the other hand, you are prepared to promise me to study osteology seriously, I will order from Lyon, for your own use, a superb flute equipped with all the new keys.” I had long been coveting this instrument. What could I say in answer?… The solemn manner of the offer, the mixture of respect and fear I felt for my father, for all his kindness, and the power of temptation, all upset me considerably. I uttered a weak Yes and went back to my room, where I threw myself on my bed in total despair.

    The thought of being a doctor, of studying anatomy, of dissecting bodies, of witnessing horrific operations, instead of surrendering body and soul to music, the sublime art whose grandeur I could already imagine! To forsake heaven for the most miserable haunts on earth, the immortal angels of poetry and love and their inspired songs for the filthy staff of hospitals and operating theatres, for hideous corpses, the screams of patients, the cries and groans of the dying!...

    No! This seemed to me to turn the natural order of my life upside down; it was monstrous and completely out of the question. And yet that is what happened.

    My study of osteology was started in the company of one of my cousins (A. Robert, who is now an eminent doctor in Paris); my father had taken him on as pupil together with me. Unfortunately Robert played the violin rather well (he was one of the group who played in my quintets), and during our hours of study we tended to spend more time on music than on anatomy. This did not prevent him from knowing his demonstrations much better than I did, because of the hard work he put in at home on his own. This led to severe reprimands from my father and even some terrible fits of anger.

    All the same, I finally managed to learn willy-nilly all my father was able to teach me on the subject of anatomy, though only with the assistance of ‘dry preparations’ (skeletons). I was nineteen, when encouraged by my comrade I had to steel myself to tackle medical studies in earnest, and with this aim in mind to leave with him for Paris. […]

© Michel Austin for original translation from Berlioz’s Memoirs. All rights of reproduction reserved.

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