The document of 1866
A note on the sale of the Jacques
Selected texts and documents
This page is also available in French
Bloom-Robert = Peter Bloom & Hervé Robert, À propos de la vie matérielle et de la condition sociale d’Hector Berlioz, Cahiers Berlioz 2 (1995)
CG = Correspondance générale (8 volumes, 1972-2003)
NL = Nouvelles lettres de Berlioz, de sa famille, de ses contemporains (2016)
[…] You ask how I managed to cope previously. It was a terrible struggle and I was often in debt; it is only my major trips abroad that saved me. Admittedly I am nowadays incomparably better off; but I find it stupid not to live a fully comfortable life, given that my personal fortune cannot be managed in any other way. What you say concerning the position I have always found myself in is true… All I can do is acknowledge this unfortunate state of affairs and put up with it. I do not aspire at possessing a great fortune, but the petty irritations of everyday life exasperate me. […]
Thus Berlioz writing to his sister Adèle at the time of his move in 1856 from Rue de Boursault to Rue de Vintimille, a move caused by the steep rise in the cost of living in Paris at the time (CG no. 2125, 11 May 1856).
From a social and economic point of view Berlioz belonged to what might be termed the middle classes, and for most of his life, after the difficulties of his student days in the 1820s, he enjoyed a modest but adequate standard of living, and did not die in poverty. Like many others in his social class, such as his parents and his two sisters, he took for granted the permanent presence at home of one or more servants: in his flat at 4 rue de Calais he was looked after in his final year by a devoted couple, Caroline Scheuer and Pierre-Guillaume Schumann, who lived on the spot (cf. NL p. 666). But he never enjoyed the lifestyle of some of his contemporaries, such as the composer Meyerbeer or the librettist Eugène Scribe; he was never in a position to acquire property in Paris but had to live in rented accommodation. His first priority was always music, and never the accumulation of wealth.
In a letter of September 1857 Berlioz humorously adapts a proverb and likens himself to a goat tethered to a pasture, who must always return to the fold, though he describes himself as having not one but three folds: the Conservatoire, the Institut, and the Journal des Débats (CG no. 2246). In other words, he did not have a single source of income that was sufficiently large to cover all his needs. He was appointed assistant librarian at the Conservatoire in 1838, then librarian in 1850, with a salary of 1500 francs a year which was doubled in April 1866 (CG VIII p. 414 n. 1). But payment of the salary was conditional on attendance: whenever Berlioz travelled abroad he had to obtain leave of absence, without which the salary for the time spent away from the Conservatoire would be withheld. He was elected to the Institut on 21 June 1856 after several unsuccessful attempts; his correspondence makes clear that whatever the honorific aspects of the position, one of its major attractions for him is that it guaranteed a modest but regular income (some 1500 francs), but again subject to attendance. By the Journal des Débats Berlioz refers of course to his place as writer of the musical feuilletons in that journal, a position which he held from 1835 to 1863; it gave him great influence and scope to express himself, but was also a constant chore from which he longed to be free, as he repeatedly stated in his correspondence.
These three were not in fact Berlioz’s only sources of income. After the death of his father in 1848, his parents’ estate was divided between their three surviving children: his two sisters Nancy and Adèle, and Berlioz himself. The division was only concluded in September 1854; Berlioz’s share comprised principally one large estate called the Jacques of some 38 hectares at Murianette near Grenoble, and a smaller farm of just under 3 hectares called the Nan at Le Chuzeau on the outskirts of La Côte Saint-André (the spelling Nant is also found in some of Berlioz’s letters — CG nos. 2123, 2833); there were also some smaller holdings at La Côte. Berlioz drew rent from these estates, and the property at La Côte also produced wine, most of which was sold locally though some was also sent to Berlioz in Paris (CG nos. 2329, 2427, 3138; cf. also the letter of Suat to Adèle of 10 September 1859).
Despite his relatively comfortable situation Berlioz never managed to shake off completely a recurring sense of financial insecurity. This was ultimately a consequence of his decision to pursue a career as a creative musician. Musical composition was a potentially very expensive activity: composition needed time, during which he would not be earning money; musical performance required the copying of parts, recruiting and paying dozens of players and singers, rehearsals, and the hiring of suitable venues. It could never be taken for granted that the sale of tickets for concerts would cover the costs, let alone generate a significant profit. The financial implications of composition and performance were to haunt him throughout his career, as can be seen repeatedly in his Mémoires. The problem surfaced very early with his first major composition, the Messe solennelle of 1824. To get it performed Berlioz needed money for which he initially approached Chateaubriand, though without success (chapter 7), but he eventually secured a loan from his friend Augustin de Pons (chapter 8). Failure to be admitted to the Prix de Rome competition of 1826 caused his father to withdraw his pension a first time (chapter 10). To repay his debt to Pons Berlioz settled for a very frugal lifestyle, but his father learned about the loan, repaid it himself, and then withdrew his pension a second time (chapter 11). Berlioz’s subsequent career as a composer was punctuated by financial anxieties of this kind: when he married Harriet Smithson in 1833 he took on Harriet’s debts (chapter 44); they were only finally cleared with the generous gift of Paganini in 1838, which also enabled him to compose Roméo et Juliette (chapter 49). The failure of La Damnation de Faust in 1846 left him ruined (chapter 54) and it was only the success of his first trip to Russia that rescued him from bankruptcy (chapter 55). The Mémoires also relate the story, some time in the early fifties, of his decision to abandon writing a symphony which had occurred to him in a dream, because he would not be able to afford the expense of having it performed, at a time when his wife needed constant attention (chapter 59).
Like many others, Berlioz kept accounts of his income and expenditure; these are occasionally referred to in his letters (CG nos. 2180, 2194); he clearly devoted a great deal of care to this. Before he left for his last trip to Russia in November 1867 he made sure his finances were under control (CG nos. 3277, 3299), and on his return in February 1868, he declared that he wanted to put his affairs in good order (CG nos. 3337, 3338). It is known that he tried to keep his accounts up to date till very near the end of his life (CG VII, p. 717 n. 1). One interesting detail which emerges incidentally from the inventory of his belongings after his death (on which see below), is that at his flat in 4 rue de Calais he had the habit of settling every day his accounts for current expenses (food etc.). He even kept accounts when travelling abroad. Among the numerous private papers of Berlioz preserved at the Berlioz Museum at La Côte-Saint-André is a notebook where among many other jottings are details of some of his expenses at the end of his trip to Italy in 1832 (inventory number R96.573). Another notebook lists expenses of his trip to Weimar and Gotha in the early months of 1856 (inventory number R96.575). Despite numerous other preoccupations, he did his best to keep on top of his finances, though struggled at times to do so; in his letters he frequently confesses with disarming frankness that he is sometimes unclear about the details of his income (CG nos. 2107, 2180, 2194, 2255, 2275, 2329, 2659, 3013; see also the letter of Adèle to her brother of October 1851). Accounting was not his strong point.
But though he was sometimes vague about the details of his income, he was very clear about the use he wanted to make of the wealth he had inherited (see also the letter of Adèle of 1851 just mentioned). Once he had come in possession of his inheritance, he soon came to the conclusion that there was no point in keeping his estates in Dauphiné, especially the large Jacques estate near Grenoble, but also his property in La Côte. He was never going to live there, he could not manage them from Paris, and the rent they brought in was much less than could be obtained from investing their value in shares and bonds. They would be far more useful to him if he simply sold them — something that would probably have horrified his father, who had devoted his life to consolidating and enlarging the family’s landed wealth. In 1856 Berlioz expressed a firm wish to dispose of his lands (CG nos. 2112, 2116, 2123, 2124). But selling landed property in the provinces was easier said than done; interested buyers who could be relied on to pay punctually were hard to come by, and the plan had to be shelved. It seems that only a few small holdings were sold at La Côte in 1857 (CG no. 2255). Berlioz dropped the idea for the time being, but returned to it in 1862 (CG no. 2659) and again the following year (CG nos. 2688, 2694). In 1864 be made another attempt to sell the Nan, his estate at La Côte (CG nos. 2833, 2880), and again in 1867 (CG no. 3262), but that was clearly unsuccessful: at the time of his death no sale had taken place, as the inventory of his possessions at his death shows (item 3, Bloom-Robert pp. 64-5; on this document see below). As for the larger Jacques estate a buyer was eventually found in 1864, though that proved to be the start of a long and frustrating story. The first buyer turned out to be unreliable, and eventually in 1866 a new buyer was found; though he proved more dependable in paying the instalments of the sale price, the transaction was not in fact fully completed at the time of Berlioz’s death (8 March 1869). The story of the sale of the Jacques is complicated and long-drawn, and there are some obscurities in the evidence provided by Berlioz’s letters. The topic is discussed in a separate note below.
Berlioz was thus not able to derive from his inheritance the full benefits he had hoped for. He nevertheless sought to implement as best he could his plan of increasing his income through investments in bonds and shares. There are general references to this in the correspondence (CG nos. 2112, 2116, 2123), but also some more specific detail. He developed the habit of investing his savings at the end of each year (CG no. 2329, in 1858), and there are several references to his investments in railway companies (CG no. 2659: the Lyon railway, in 1862; CG nos. 2806 and 2807: the Orléans railway, in 1863; CG no. 2935: the Orléans railway again, in 1864). As will be seen below, the document of 1866 published here contains several references to such investments.
Berlioz’s own writings have already been referred to several times. The Mémoires cannot of course be expected to provide any detail about Berlioz’s finances on a day to day basis: they highlight only a few significant episodes in his career as a composer. Such detailed evidence as is provided by Berlioz’s writings comes solely from his correspondence, or specific parts of it, selections from which have been collected below in chronological order (from 1854 onwards, when Berlioz took possession of his inheritance). All translations are by Michel Austin.
It will be seen immediately that almost all the letters cited are addressed to two persons only, Berlioz’s brothers-in-law Camille Pal (1789-1879) and Marc Suat (1799-1869). Camille Pal was the husband of Berlioz’s elder sister Nancy, and Marc Suat of Adèle, the younger sister. Both men were lawyers; they had expertise in money matters and property management, and were in a position to look after Berlioz’s estates in a way he could not, with his multiple commitments in Paris and abroad. Pal lived in Grenoble where he was judge at the court, and Suat lived in Vienne, south of Lyon, and was a solicitor; they thus lived within reach of Berlioz’s estates. Both men were property owners in their own right; Pal owned an estate at St Vincent not far from Grenoble, while Suat had a farm at Beaurepaire near La Côte Saint-André. By a formal agreement concluded in September 1854 Pal managed the large estate of the Jacques; it is not clear whether there was a similar formal agreement between Berlioz and Suat, but Berlioz had in any case been close to the Suat family for many years, and it was natural that Suat should on his side manage Berlioz’s properties in La Côte. Though there was occasional friction between Pal and Suat (cf. in 1856 the letter of Suat to Pal and CG nos. 2106, 2123), both men discharged their task in an exemplary manner; from this point of view Berlioz was fortunate in his two brothers-in-law and he had frequent occasion to express his sincere gratitude to both. Though the excerpts of his correspondence with them reproduced here are largely concerned with mundane business matters, they illuminate an aspect of Berlioz’s life that normally receives little attention, and shows both brothers-in-law in a very positive light. It is rather touching to see how in the last months of his life Berlioz turned several times to Camille Pal for help, when he was obsessed with the fear of being short of money, even though his fears were probably imaginary (cf. the letters of Camille Pal of 8 December and 28 December 1868 in reply to letters of Berlioz to him [CG nos. 3376 and 3377]). What may be the very last preserved letter of Berlioz, a rather pathetic and at times incoherent letter dating from early 1869, was addressed to Pal and aired once more his financial anxieties and specifically raised once again what was for him the unfinished business of the Jacques (CG no. 3381 in NL p. 670-1).
One point which emerges from Berlioz’s references to his business matters in his correspondence deserves to be mentioned. Though he sometimes had difficulty in maintaining a clear grasp of the detail of his finances, and had to rely on his brothers-in-law for clarification, he nevertheless tried to look after them himself. Marie Recio, his wife since October 1854, is never mentioned in the context of his financial affairs in the letters cited here, except for a single statement where he expresses concern about the inadequate inheritance he might be leaving to his son and to his wife (CG no. 2123). There is otherwise nothing in these letters to indicate that he consulted or relied on Marie Recio for advice on his financial affairs.
Accounting papers of Berlioz himself are known to exist, though they are scattered in different places, some in museums or libraries, others in private collections, and to our knowledge they have not so far been collected and analysed as a whole. For example, a collection of 40 sheets of accounts for the years 1859-1862 was at one time sold at an auction (present whereabouts unknown), and there are also accounts for the year 1862 (CG VI, p. 354 n. 1). On his return from Russia in February 1868 Berlioz started a fresh series of accounts which run till September 1868 (CG VII p. 672 n. 1, now in the Library of Congress in Washington). Accounts are also known that cover the winter of 1868-1869, with the last dated entry on 4 February 1869, just over a month before Berlioz’s death (CG VII p. 717 n. 1).
A large number of private papers of Berlioz are now housed at the Hector Berlioz Museum at La Côte, some of which are referred to in different parts of this page. One document of special value is the inventory drawn up in the weeks after his death of all the contents of his flat at 4 rue de Calais, including his furniture, belongings and the financial papers detailing his assets. It exists at the Museum in two different copies: one in a very fine hand, running to 20 pages (inventory number R96.1976), which reproduces the main text in full with a few slight differences and omissions, the most important of which is that of the transcription of Berlioz’s will. The other is a complete version, professionally written in a larger and very elegant hand, which includes the transcription of Berlioz’s will, and runs to 69 pages in all (inventory number R96.1977). After the detailed inventory of furniture and other belongings, each document lists under a series of numbered headings called Cotes the various monetary assets (shares etc.) that Berlioz held at his death, including his properties in Dauphiné. The full text is reproduced in Bloom-Robert pp. 53-73 (Document no. 11), with introduction pp. 14-18. This constitutes a major source of information for Berlioz’s possessions at the time of his death and will be referred to in the commentary and notes below.
For other relevant documents, see also the section below on the sale of the Jacques.
One document now at the Berlioz Museum is the text that is published on this page; it was acquired by us and donated to the Museum in 2016, where it now bears the inventory number 2016.04.02. As may be seen from the image below, it is a one-page list of items of income with the title Revenu de l’année 1866, and is very similar in its contents and layout to the list of February 1868 cited in CG VII p. 672 n. 1. The document, in Berlioz’s hand, was drawn up at the very end of the year 1866 or early in January 1867 (Berlioz initially wrote 1867 at the top and corrected it to 1866), after the return in late December from the trip to Vienna in Austria to give a performance of La Damnation de Faust. It is an illustration of Berlioz’s constant wish to keep abreast of his finances, and should also be seen in the light of his practice of investing at the end of each year any savings he had (see above).
© Musée Hector-Berlioz
For a transcription of the original and notes on it see the French version of this page. The significance of the figures in the top right corner of the page is not clear, and they have been omitted here.
Revenue of the year 1866
|From La Côte through Suat||600 fr|
|From my lodger||180 fr|
|From the Orléans railway||615 fr|
|id.||157 fr 50 c|
|From the Ottoman loan||1290 fr|
|Ottoman shares redeemed||500 fr|
|5 Ottoman shares redeemed||902 fr 50 c|
|Income from state bonds||2530 fr|
|City of Paris||280 fr|
|Association of Composers||127 fr|
|Royalties from Baden-Baden||68 fr|
|Vienna Musical Society||11 fr|
|Books from the Institut||18 fr|
|Interest on the sale of the Jacques||2710 fr|
|Royalties on Gluck’s Alceste||1206 fr|
|Net profit from Vienna||300 fr|
This refers to Berlioz’s salary as librarian of the Conservatoire, payment of which was dependent on attendance; see above.
This refers to payments made monthly for attendance at sessions of the Institut; see above.
This refers to the revenues Berlioz received from his estate of Le Nan at La Côte, which came in the form of rent from a tenant and the proceeds of the sale of wine; this was managed on the spot by his brother-in-law Marc Suat who sent him the money in Paris (see above). This is frequently mentioned in Berlioz’s correspondence with Marc Suat from 1855 onwards (CG nos. 2107, 2255, 2329, 2427, 2659, 2806, 2807, 2924, 2935) though the only attestation for 1866 is in CG no. 3138.
The word translated here by ‘lodger’ is locataire, a word Berlioz does not use to describe his tenant at the Jacques (he regularly uses the word fermier); as for his revenues from his property at La Côte he does not refer in his letters to an individual tenant, but only to the revenues in rent or from the sale of wine which Marc Suat sent him regularly (see previous entry). On the other hand Berlioz did not own any property in Paris. Could this entry possibly refer to Berlioz subletting part of his flat at 4 rue de Calais to a lodger, despite the lack of space? Berlioz’s listing of revenues for February-September 1868 cited in CG VII p. 672 n. 1 has an entry ‘the rent for the room’ (Le loyer de la chambre) which generates a modest 45 francs, and this could conceivably refer to the same source of income as here. It is possible that the anonymous lodger was none other than Pierre-Guillaume Schumann, who is known to have moved in to rue de Calais at some unspecified time before the beginning of 1868, with Berlioz’s obvious agreement. Though not formally in Berlioz’s service and never in receipt of any wages, he became devoted to the composer at the end of his life (see the page on 4 rue de Calais).
Investment in shares of railway companies was thought by Berlioz to be a safe investment (cf. above). He had already acquired shares in the Orléans railway before 1863 and continued to purchase additional shares thereafter (CG nos. 2806, 2807, 2935; shares in the Orléans railway are listed by Berlioz as a source of income in his account of 1868, cf. CG VII p. 672 n. 1). By the time of his death he had acquired a substantial portfolio of 146 shares, as is shown in detail in the inventory of his belongings after his death (Item 5 in the inventory; see Bloom-Robert pp. 17 & 66).
After the Crimean war the Ottoman empire started to raise capital by borrowing money and issuing bonds in Europe through the agency of western banks. Berlioz seems to have invested in them rather late; the entry here may refer to the investment he was contemplating in late 1865 (CG no. 3059; cf. CG no. 3025). Berlioz may have disposed of these shares fairly quickly: they are not mentioned in his income listing of 1868 (CG VII p. 672 n. 1) and there is no trace of them in the inventory of his papers after his death.
We have not been able to find any further evidence on this large item of income.
In late 1865 Berlioz expressed a wish to invest in the issue of rights from the City of Paris which took place in that year (CG no. 3059). At his death he held 16 shares (obligations municipales) worth 500 francs each which generated an annual interest of 20 francs payable on 1st February and 1st August every year (Item 6 in the inventory of his papers; Bloom-Robert pp. 17 & 67).
This item probably refers to royalties on the performance of his music (Bloom-Robert p. 18); there is a similar entry in Berlioz’s listing of his income for 1868 (CG VII p. 672 n. 1).
To the best of our knowledge no music of Berlioz was performed at Baden-Baden in 1866, though the previous year excerpts from Les Troyens and L’Enfance du Christ were played at the August festival under the direction of Ernest Reyer (CG nos. 3025, 3032). Conceivably the royalties for the performances of 1865, or part of them, were only paid to Berlioz the following year.
It is not known what occasioned the modest payment recorded here, which was perhaps in connection with his visit to Vienna in December 1866 to perform La Damnation de Faust. Berlioz was invited by Johann Herbeck, the president of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, which is presumably the ‘Société musicale de Vienne’ to which Berlioz refers here.
It is not clear what this refers to; possibly the sale of a few books to the library of the Institut, but the sum is in any case modest.
On the sale of the Jacques see the section below. The figure of 2710 francs entered here corresponds exactly to CG no. 3178. But other letters of Berlioz to Pal in 1866 list a number of other payments received by him for the Jacques, partly rent from the tenant and partly payments for the purchase price from the buyer M. Maigné; these add up to 5665 francs, but Berlioz strangely omits to include any of these in his income for the year (CG nos. 3125, 3127, 3131bis, 3158, 3179).
This refers to the performances of Gluck’s Alceste which were given at the Opéra in October and November 1866 and which figure prominently in Berlioz’s correspondence at the time. In 1861 Berlioz had already supervised performances of Alceste at the Opéra, for which he had received royalties. In July 1866 the director of the Opéra, Émile Perrin, informed Berlioz that he was planning to revive the work and assured Berlioz that he would continue to receive royalties on the same terms as before (CG no. 3145). Berlioz supervised rehearsals intermittently in August and September (see esp. CG nos. 3157, 3159, 3162, 3165, 3166). The first performance was on 12 October, and altogether 4 complete performances were given during October and November. To coincide with the performances Berlioz’s edition of the score of Alceste was reissued (CG nos. 3174, 3180). Altogether the experience affected Berlioz deeply. It was on the occasion of those performances that there was a moving exchange of letters between Berlioz and his erstwhile critic Fétis (CG nos. 3169, 3170, 3171, 3173).
This refers to the profits made from the performance in Vienna of La Damnation de Faust on 16 December 1866. Before leaving Berlioz said that he was not going to Vienna for the money, but to hear his score performed (CG no. 3174). On his return he said he had been well paid, but through fatigue he refused an offer to give more concerts (CG no. 3213).
The total of all the figures, excluding the figure crossed out for the balance in cash on 1st December, adds up to 16,050 francs (if the figures are correctly transcribed).
As seen above, it was Berlioz’s declared intention to sell the Jacques estate in 1856; this proved impossible at the time and had to be postponed, and it was only in 1864 that a buyer was eventually found. But completing the transaction and securing the agreed sale price was beset by delays and disappointments, and at the time of Berlioz’s death the process had not been fully completed. As it stands, the extant correspondence between Berlioz and his two brothers-in-law does not by itself provide a clear picture of the successive stages in the story, and the commentary in the relevant volumes CG leaves several points unclear. This note summarises evidence from documents at the Berlioz Museum in La Côte that clarify the story; as the inventory numbers show, these documents form part of the Reboul bequest that entered the Museum in 2011, and presumably come from Camille Pal’s own papers. The relevant documents are listed in chronological order, together with a summary of their contents.
Three further documents are receipts in Camille Pal’s hand for sums received by him from M. Gautier on behalf of Berlioz towards the sale price of the Jacques (inventory numbers 2011.02.532 to 4); some of the dates have been crossed out and overwritten and the detailed chronology is not altogether clear.
The evidence of the documents mentioned above should be compared with references in Berlioz’s letters. There are only vague allusions to the conclusion of the first sale in the letters of 1864 (CG nos. 2860, 2880), but the following year (1865) the references are now specific (CG nos. 3013, 3059), and there are further mentions of the problems caused by the buyer M. Maigné in the letters of 1866 (CG nos. 3127, 3137, 3178, 3179). References to the second sale to M. Gautier are initially very general (CG nos. 3179, 3213), but thereafter specific (CG nos. 3215, 3277, 3339). But without the sale documents listed above it would not be easy to reconstruct the context of the allusions in Berlioz’s letters, given that most of those he received from Camille Pal (and also Marc Suat) have not survived.
In the last months of his life, Berlioz, as seen above, continued to be worried about the state of his finances and specifically about the question of the Jacques, which had preyed on his mind almost from the time he had acquired it. The inventory of his possessions drawn up after his death shows that by that time only just over a quarter of the agreed sale price of 40,000 francs had actually been paid (M. Gautier still owed 29,510 francs and 95 centimes, i.e. he had paid so far 10,489 francs and 5 centimes [see item 4 in the listing of his papers, Bloom-Robert pp. 65-66]).
In Berlioz’s correspondence as it now stands there are two further points that are not clear.
(1) The status and obligations of the tenant at the Jacques after the sale of 1 November 1864. In a letter of 8 June 1865 which clearly alludes to the sale of 1 November 1864 (no. 1 above), Berlioz was under the impression that the tenant (M. Jaure) did not owe anything to him after January 1865, and was surprised to receive a further payment of rent from Camille Pal after this date (CG no. 3013). He was so touched by the regrets expressed by the tenant at seeing the estate pass to a new owner, that he sent him as a present a two-shot gun with an inscribed plaque on it. (This gun was discovered in 2008 on a rubbish dump near Grenoble and is now in the Hector Berlioz Museum at La Côte Saint-André; see the note on this letter below.) Yet letters of Berlioz of 1866 show him continuing to receive from Camille Pal payments of rent from the tenant at the Jacques; CG and NL do not offer any comment on this point (CG nos. 3125 and 3131bis [in NL p. 638]). The explanation for this probably lies in the sale agreement of August 1864 which stipulated that the new owner was free to make his own arrangements with the tenant for the continuation of his lease (the same happened later with the new owner M. Gautier according to the agreements of November 1866 and February 1867 [nos. 3 and 4 above]). Presumably an agreement was reached that the tenant would continue for a while to pay rent, or part of it, to Berlioz.
(2) A letter of Camille Pal to Berlioz which bears the date 20 March 1866 is more problematic (CG no. 3120). In it Pal writes that a client has come forward expressing interest in buying the Jacques, and he asks Berlioz to state what price he would expect, reminding him that in September 1854 the estate was valued at 75,000 francs. It seems astonishing that in this letter Pal should fail to mention that the estate had in fact been sold to a buyer only a few months earlier, and equally astonishing that he should ask Berlioz to name his price, without mentioning that the estate had recently been sold to that buyer for 65,000 francs! The dating of Pal’s letter is confirmed by a letter of Berlioz just over a week later, which implicitly confirms that he had received it then (CG no. 3125). There is nothing in CG (vol. VII pp. 410 & 415) to point out the anomaly, and we are unable to provide an explanation for it. It might be noted incidentally that Berlioz evidently preserved this particular letter of Pal, while there were many others that he did not keep; selling the Jacques certainly did matter to him.
All translations are © Michel Austin
CG = Correspondance
générale (8 volumes, 1972-2003)
NL = Nouvelles lettres de Berlioz, de sa famille, de ses contemporains (2016)
Manuscript note from Berlioz to Camille Pal (CG IV p. 585 n. 2 with NL p. 405; 24 September)
I the undersigned give power to Monsieur Camille Pal to manage and administer the property Les Jacques, in the district of Murianette, which was attributed to me in the sharing of the inheritance of my father and mother; to settle all accounts with the farmers, to levy the dues for the lease and provide receipts; to sell the timber that is cut and exact the price; to take legal action before a justice of the peace and to represent me in court; to carry out all works that he deems necessary in the interest of the property, such as repairs to buildings and the management of the fountain.
La Côte St André, 24 September 1854
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2106; 9 March)
[…] It is painful for all of us that elements of discord have been introduced into the family, and I had hoped that old causes of animosity between yourself and Suat had been forgotten once and for all.
Since to my great regret it is not so, and that you have the extreme kindness of offering again to look after my business intrests, it is therefore with you that I will be corresponding on this subject (as regards my domain of Les Jacques).
Be kind enough to let me know in what way and at what time it will be most convenient for you to let me receive the income from the estate. Now that indispensable repairs have been made to the farm, I hope that this small-scale management will cause you less worry and will take up less of your time.
Be assured that I am sincerely touched and grateful for the signs of constant friendship that you are showing me, and do not be in doubt as to my own.
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2107; 15 March)
I received yesterday the 400 francs of my pension and I thank you. Please let me know in future the address of the bank where I must collect it (if you know it); I do not know where is the Comptoir d’Escompte, but will find out.
I received a letter from Camille informing me that he will look after my business interests at the Jacques and that he will send me the income from this estate at the end of each year. What you will have to send me from my revenues at La Côte will be very little, and I do not think it is worth the trouble of sending it every two months as in the past. Besides, is it not the case that you have already sent me two parts of my revenue from the Jacques this year, in January and in March? Or was it only one part, that which I have just received? Please enlighten me on this point. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2112; 8 April)
After much thought and prolonged hesitation, I have decided to sell my inheritance. All the necessities of life are now going up in price in an exorbitant way, and money is losing its value. I have just been forced to leave the flat that I was occupying for eight years because of an increase of two thirds. The owner of the house where I live is asking for 1500 francs when he used to charge 900. After a week of searching I have had to settle for a flat on the fifth floor [at rue de Vintimille] near the city gates, which is much smaller than the one I will be leaving at the end of the lease, and for which I will be glad to pay only 1300 francs.
I have therefore resolved either to invest what I have in state bonds, or to buy a house in Paris. Currently an investment of this kind brings in at least 7%, and the value of houses, to judge from what I see, from what everyone is saying, and from what builders and architects are undertaking, will double over a period of ten years. Consequently I beg you to do your utmost to find a buyer for my estate of the Jacques, and if possible a buyer who pays promptly. If I had had the value of this estate I could have recently made a very advantageous deal for a house. The longer I wait the more the price of houses will go up.
It would really be too unreasonable for me to keep a property that brings in so little, which I cannot possibly occupy, which I cannot exploit, and forces me to bother you with its administration. […]
P.S. I would need also some concrete details about the value and nature of the Jacques estate; I will pass them on to my solicitor in Paris, who might be able on his side to look for a buyer.
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2116; 12 April)
[…] We have been threatened again with forthcoming increases. Houses are fetching an enormous price, and had I had the necessary funds I would have been seriously tempted to buy the one where I am about to live and which has just been built. Even if I invested my belongings in state bonds, and not in a house which would bring in much more, I would still be getting 4½ per cent instead of the 2½ per cent which I get from my properties. It is diabolical to be in financial straits as we are, though living very modestly, and with a fortune which could provide us with a comfortable lifestyle. And so, my dear Suat, please do what you can to facilitate this sale and even that of my other properties. Camille writes to me that you are even better placed than he is to help with this transaction. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2123; 1 May)
Your letter has completely discouraged me. All the sensible and serious businessmen I know here are unanimous on the enormous advantage I would find in investing the value of my lands instead of getting limited revenues, and it seems impossible to sell them!…
Please do whatever is possible to sell my property of the Nan, and send me the information and instructions needed so that I can put it on sale here through the agency of my solicitor. Even if I were to make a loss on the sale price, the revenue from reinvesting the money would quickly make up for the loss. It is obviously absurd to own properties valued at over 100,000 francs which only bring in 2000, when their value could bring in 6000 or more.
Paris is expanding, houses and rents are going up, and the longer the wait the greater the risk of losing the opportunity which exists at the moment to make an advantageous investment with all this capital. […]
I do not need money at the moment, but I am terrified about the future; I will not find every year concerts of the Festival of Industry to conduct or invitations to Germany, I will not produce regularly scores such as l’Enfance du Christ, etc, etc.
In the meantime old age is approaching, and the things from which I might even derive most benefit are not being done, because of my relatively straitened circumstances. Even the interests of my son are suffering; were he to be left with no more than what I could leave him at the moment, it is hard to see how he could manage to live; my wife would be in an even worse position. All this is very serious.
I did not think it possible, my dear Suat, without being indiscreet with you, to ask you to look after my estate of the Jacques; that is why I decided to accept the offer of Pal, who lives in Grenoble and is not obliged, as you would have been, to travel in order to look after this property. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2124; 10 May)
I have received the bank draft for 400 francs which you sent for my income from the Jacques. I was not expecting it and thought I would not be getting anything till the end of the year. Do as you wish. I thank you for looking after the sale of this estate. If an opportunity arises I would be very grateful to have your advice on the matter. It is indeed my wish to offer it for sale, but not to make a bad sale, and I would ask you to pay attention only to reasonable offers and to clients who pay promptly. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2180; 23 October)
I have just received the bank draft for 400 francs which you kindly sent me on behalf of my tenant at the Jacques. Would you be kind enough to tell me a little more about this income. This year I have only received 1200 francs (in 3 instalments of 400 frs). Could you let me know what more I can expect to receive, or is that all that I will be earning from the Jacques?
When entering my income in my account book I neglected to specify the source of the 3 payments, whether from Grenoble or from Vienne, and I would like to set the record straight on this matter.
I am positive that I have received at least 800 frs from you. Could you tell me whether the previous payment (in January) also came from you, and whether, as I was just asking you, I can still expect some money from my tenant before 1857. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2194; 18 December)
[...] Two months ago I received a letter from Camille in which he instructed me about items of income I had forgotten to enter into my account book, namely that he had sent directly to me at that time only two bank drafts of 400 fr for the income from the Jacques, but that he had sent to you 500 fr on January 6th and 700 fr on February 18th.
Could you please tell me whether you agree with him on this point. In that case you still owe me 400 fr from the sums he passed on to you, except for the expenses you must have incurred on my behalf for the trial etc.
Be kind enough, my dear Suat, to write to me about this and tell me what you will have to send to me before the end of this year, whether from what you still have from the income of the Jacques which Pal sent to you, or from the income of the Nan. I would like to bring more order than in the past into my money matters and I do not have a clear idea of my income. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2246; 7 September)
[…] But I had been away from Paris for too long; I had to return to my folds (I have three: the Institut, the Conservatoire, and the Journal des Débats). And as the new proverb says: where the goat grazes, there it has to be tethered. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2255; 19 October)
[…] Since I am on this subject, let me tell you that I re-read recently all your business letters in order to find out about the wood or woods which you have sold for me; I did not find what I was looking for. Could you please tell me how much this sale brought in (whether the payment has been made or not, I know that you made a sale on credit), that is at what price you sold and how much has been paid of the price of the sale. You told me somewhere that every sum coming from this sale will be invested by you; have I already received something from the interest of this money? and when do you think that the full sum will be paid? […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2275; 29 January)
I believe like you that the lease with my tenant at the Jacques should be renewed. You may laugh if you wish, but at this moment I do not know what are the terms of that lease. I have never received a precise annual sum for the lease, though I believe that it amounts to 2200 fr.
Now in 1857 I did not receive that sum but only 1950 fr. It is true that you sent me this month an additional 500 fr for the year 1857, which would be more than the price of the lease, and would lead me to believe that at the beginning of the year 1857 there were arrears paid for 1856. As a result I am in the dark.
Please write to me about this. But in the meantime take what action you think is appropriate, I have complete confidence in your friendly intentions. But tell me nevertheless whether it would be unfair to ask from Jaure a slight increase? Everything is going up, money is losing its value, and the value of land must necessarily be going up. Look into this and tell me what you think.
But please do tell me the exact value of the lease and where I stand as regards payments that are due. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2329; 3 November)
[…] I ask you to send me only what is left of my income from the property at La Côte, and to keep what seems appropriate to you to clear the debts incurred for the expenses of the Pion trial. On re-reading your letter it seems to me that the 600 or 700 fr which you propose to send me would in fact be that amount. Please spell it out more clearly to me, and send me the sum in the way you can manage. Sending cash in a bag is very awkward; I may not be at home, and there could even be nobody there when the delivery from the railway comes; the resulting toing and froing is very annoying, and involves in addition a small expense. Do you not have a banker in Vienne who could give us a bank draft for Paris?..
At the end of every year I put my finances in good order by investing my savings, and that is why I am bothering you with these details. Thank you for your offer to keep for me in La Côte wine from this year. Keep several barrels for me, as my cellar is too small to accommodate such a large supply. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2427; 2 November)
Please send one of the two barrels to M. Delaroche, 52 Faubourg Montmartre, Paris; the other one to go to our address. I take it for granted that it is wine of the year 1858 and not of this year. Tell me also exactly how much I must ask from M. Delaroche; now that I am a wine merchant I need to know my job.
In a final clarification on this point Adèle tells me that you are able to send me before the end of this year 800 fr, which when added to the price of the barrel of wine would raise my income from La Côte to nearly 900 fr. That is a lot, I did not believe I was so rich. A thousand thanks for your good offices and your excellent management. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2579; 4 November)
I have just received the draft for 500 francs which you kindly sent me on behalf of my tenant. Apply the rebate he is asking for as you think fit. Is it not the case that he still owes 200 francs for this year’s rent? In any case the rebate he asks for is only for the year 1862 because of the damage caused by mildew. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2659; 8 October)
Since you have money that is available to me, please send it and explain to me what you mean by the reserve. I do not understand this, since you sent me last year everything you had received for me from the income at La Côte. Incidentally, tell me also whether there might be a way of selling these vineyards at a decent price, as it is deplorable to get such a meager return from what would earn twice as much if invested in railways. I have ten shares in the Lyon railway which bring in 7 ½ percent, and despite all my frugality and extreme discipline I am always worried about the future. The Baden-Baden season may suddenly fail me, and will indeed fail next year, as Bénazet is no longer giving a Festival. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2688; 13 January)
I am very sorry and ashamed of the trouble caused to you by my problems with the Jacques; I do not doubt that you will act for the best. But this new accident incites me to raise again with you my old idea of selling the estate. Would it really be impossible to find a buyer for this farm? Were I to sell it, the proceeds from the sale would earn me at least 5 percent, when I am getting not even 2½ percent. My cousin Victor might possibly arrange this; try to see him on this matter, when you have time. I am in constant fear of losing 2000 francs of income because of the ending of my annual contract with Baden-Baden. The closing of the casino is still being announced, and then no more music. In addition, Bénazet seems determined to discontinue the Festival and his theatre is taking up all his attention. […]
To Joséphine Suat (CG no. 2689; 13 January)
[…] What is happening to you? What kind of trouble is overwhelming you in Vienne? Have you been battered by the storm? That is what it has happened to my estate of the Jacques where a house has been knocked down which I now have to rebuild. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2694; 3 February)
I have just received the sum of 500 francs which you sent me for my tenant at the Jacques. I thank you. I received a letter from my cousin Victor and I have replied to him. The difficulty in selling my property proves how right I am to want to dispose of it. Every capitalist comes to the same conclusion as I do. It is nevertheless possible that sooner or later a buyer will be found; had the estate been offered for sale five or six years ago I would probably be richer today than I am now. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2806; 26 November)
[...] Tell me at the same time when you will be able to send me the income from my vineyard at La Côte. You would oblige me greatly; I would like to make an investment before the end of the year. [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2807; 29 November)
I have just received the 800 francs of revenue from my vineyard at La Côte, which you kindly sent me. I thank you. I want to buy shares in the Orléans railway of which I already have a number. It is a very safe investment. [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2833; 12 February)
I agree to the sale of my estate of the Nan, if you can get a good price for it and if the payment is made without delay. Would you believe that I do not know whether this estate is all that I own at La |Côte. Please enlighten me on this subject, and I will put it down in writing so that I do not forget.
I have full confidence in you for this sale, but before concluding it let me know what price is offered. [...]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 2860; 24 May)
[...] Conclude the business of the sale when you are able to, but please do not worry too much about it. [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2880; 15 August)
[...] P.S. Please try to sell my property at La Côte. I have a very important musical publication which remains in suspense because I do not have enough income [the publication of the full score of Les Troyens]. This torments me. And yet every year I invest a few thousand francs. I am still being told about the sale of the Jacques; Pal writes to me about it, and so does my cousin Victor, but that is not getting anywhere. So much money has been lost in a silly way.
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2924; 1 November)
Do not forget the promise you gave me to send at the beginning of this month all the money of mine that you have. Without this sum I cannot undertake the important publication which I planned and which is already well behind schedule. Do your best, you would oblige me greatly. [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 2935; 1 December)
I received yesterday the 2000 francs which you sent me to complete the money of mine that was still with you. I thank you for the information and for you intentions as regards the rest. Difficulties which have arisen between my publisher and myself prevent me at the moment from realising my plan for publication; in the meantime I used the first sum to purchase shares in the Orléans railway. You see that I am organised. [...]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3013; 8 June)
I received this morning the 400 francs which you sent me on behalf of my former tenant at the Jacques. I thought that he did not owe me anything more since the month of January, and that this year I would only be getting the 3000 francs of interest from my buyer (in November) and the 20,000 francs of the first instalment that he has to pay then. Have I then made a mistake in my calculations? Please write a few words to me to clear this up. I do not know the name of my buyer [M. Maigné, CG nos. 3059, 3127, 3179] nor that of his solicitor. I imagine all that is written down in the deed of sale which you have passed on to me. (How wonderfully naïve!)
But, and this is less silly, please tell me in your letter the spelling of the name of this good tenant who, as you told me, was sorry to see the estate pass into hands other than mine: is it Jorre or Jaure?
I want to send him as a souvenir a good two-shot gun by Devisme; I will get his name and mine inscribed on the butt. Then I will send it to you in Grenoble and you will be kind enough to let him know that you are keeping it available for him. [...]
[Note: by a remarkable stroke of fortune this gun was discovered on a rubbish dump near Grenoble in 2008; it is now in the Musée Hector-Berlioz at La Côte-Saint-André. The butt does indeed have an engraved plaque with the words “1865 A Mr J. Jaures - Souvenir de Mr Hector Berlioz”]
To his son Louis Berlioz (CG no. 3025; 11 July):
[…] I went yesterday to see the stock-broker; your five hundred francs were not enough to purchase two Ottoman bonds which bring in nine per cent interest. So following the broker’s advice I will wait for you to send me what you said was owed to you, so that I can buy you a small income. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3059; 5 November)
I thank you a thousand times for the care you are devoting to my business interests given the state of health you are in. I have received the bank draft which you are sending me on behalf of M. Maigné, and I am sending you a signed receipt to pass on to him. I did not know I had to give him one, since I signed one during my last visit to Grenoble.
As for the 20,000 francs which he is not paying, his delay is causing me great inconvenience, as I was counting on investing this sum in the Ottoman funds and those of the city of Paris, from which I would have received interest next January. So M. Maigné will pay when he is so inclined? That is not at all what he announced at the start, and this breach of promise at the first date when an instalment is due does not reassure me about the future. When you are able to see him please try to get him to come clean on this. [,,,]
Camille Pal à Berlioz (CG no. 3120; 20 March)
I have just seen a businessman from Grenoble who approached me on behalf of one of his clients about the acquisition of your estate of the Jacques; these gentlemen would like to know the price you are asking for your property; I would therefore ask you to tell me what you are demanding; to give you as far as possible an idea of the value of your estate, I believe I should remind you that it was estimated in the sharing of the inheritance from your parents at the sum of 75,000 francs. […]
On this letter see above
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3125; 28 March)
I have just received the bank draft for 400 francs which you sent me on behalf of my tenant at the Jacques. I thank you for the care you are taking over the sale of the estate, I am awaiting the purchaser and I will maintain the price you have asked. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3127; 6 April)
Here is the authorisation you request; I was unable to obtain it any earlier. I see that M. Maigné attaches as little importance to his verbal promises as to his written commitments. The large instalment which he was supposed to give me before Easter is reduced to a note payable on July 1st. I imagine this note will be paid together with the interests on the 5000 francs over eight months. [...]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3131bis [NL p. 638]; 30 April)
I have received the 500 francs which you sent me yesterday on behalf of my tenant at the Jacques. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3137; 31 May)
I have just received the 3000 francs which you sent me on behalf of M. Maigné for the purchase price of my estate of the Jacques. I thank you. […]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 3138; 6 June)
I have received the 200 francs which you sent me for the sale price of my wine from La Côte; I thank you. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3158; 3 September)
I received the note for 1200 francs which you are sending me on behalf of M. Maigné, a sum which includes the 10 francs which he is refunding me for the expenses of the authorisation [CG no. 3127]. […]
To Joséphine Suat (CG no. 3174; 23 October)
[...] I do not know what they will give me in Vienna by way of expenses and fee, I warned them that I did not want to know and that I would accept with eyes closed. No matter! I am too happy to go there to hear again my great score, which is so daring, and to hear it performed without fear or reproach. [...]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3178; 1 November)
I received from you on behalf of M. Maigné the sum of 2710 francs for the interests on what he still owes me on the price of the Jacques. I thank you. You can also send me the instalment he promised you […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3179; 8 November)
I have received the bank draft you have just sent me (for 525 francs) as instalment of the price of my estate of the Jacques.
I am very pleased to hear what you are telling me in connection with a new transaction. I hope that the new owner will pay better than M. Maigné.
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3213; 12 January)
[...] I was too tired [in Vienna], the weather was too cold, and I had nothing to gain except money. Besides I had been generously compensated for all my expenses. Ah! it was grand.
Please tell me whether the sum you are sending is an instalment on the price [of the estate], or whether it includes interests, and how much is still owed to me. I do not have a clear idea of all this.
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3215; 21 January)
I have just received you letter and the 4000 francs it contained from my buyer of the Jacques. Thank you also for the information you provide. [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 3262; 22 July)
I have just received your 100 francs note for the rest of my income from La Côte. I thank you. But, on further thought, if you can find a buyer for these properties, by all means go ahead, as the income is too meager and managing it on my behalf causes you trouble. [...]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3277; 24 September)
I do not know at precisely what time in November you plan to send me the interest which my buyer of the Jacques must pay me. If you are able to send me this money before the 12th it will be welcome, otherwise keep it, for the following reason [his forthcoming trip to Russia] [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 3299; 1 November)
[...] Do not send me the 400 francs you mentioned, since it belongs to the year 1868 and there is no need to anticipate. But thank you all the same for your good intention. [...]
See CG no. 3338
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3337; 19 February)
[...] I had dinner yesterday with Joséphine and her husband. They told me you had money to send me. Please send it to me, I would like to put all my affairs in good order before leaaving again. [...]
To Marc Suat (CG no. 3338; 19 February)
[...] I am sending you this brief note to ask you to send me the money you wanted to give me before my departure (sc. for Russia). [...]
Camille Pal to Berlioz (CG no. 3339; 20 or 21 February)
[...] Consequently I am sending you without delay the funds I have received on your behalf from your buyers of the Jacques, a substantial sum of 6260 francs, which includes 1260 fr. from M. Maigné, your first buyer, to close his account, and 5000 fr. from M. Gautier your last buyer as an instalment of the purchase price.
You will find enclosed a bank draft of 6260 fr. on the Banque de France payable to you on March 3rd next. Please confirm to me that you have received this. [...] [See CG no. 3343]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3376; 11 November)
Please see M. Julhiet [Pal’s solicitor in Grenoble] to clear up this business [the unfinished sale of the Jacques]; I cannot sort it out without you, he would like to purchase the debt. […]
To Camille Pal (CG no. 3377; 27 December)
[...] I am impatient to be rid of my money problems, you hold me in your hand, help me to get out of this. Help me. A letter is not long. [...]
The Hector Berlioz Website was created on 18 June 1997 by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin; this page created on 15 May 2018.
© Musée Hector-Berlioz, for the autograph and image. All rights reserved.
© Michel Austin and Monir Tayeb, for the introduction, commentary and translations. All rights reserved.
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