The Hector Berlioz Website



James W Davison

Musical World 13 March 1869

James William Davison (1813-1885) was a close friend of Berlioz and music critic of the Times and the Musical World. This obituary was later reprinted in J. W. Davison, From Mendelssohn to Wagner (London, 1912), Being the Memoirs of J. W. Davison, Forty Years Music Critic of "The Times". Compiled by his son Henry Davison.

The text below has been transcribed from this book, of which a copy is in our own collection.


Another great musical thinker has gone – Hector Berlioz. He died, but a few days since, in Paris, aged sixty-six. His life, in so far as his art is concerned, was one continued struggle. He had ideas which the world could not comprehend, but which, nevertheless, all those who knew Berlioz comprehended well enough. The man and the musician were one. A more earnest man, a musician more thoroughly persuaded of the absolute truth and rectitude of his own adopted convictions, has never existed. It is not now the time to criticize the claims of Berlioz as a composer; but it is especially the time for those who were fortunate enough to be classed among his intimate acquaintance to state, without reserve, that a nature more guileless and honest, an enthusiasm more ardent for all that was great and good, a more staunch and unquenchable hatred of everything that was not genuine than his could not be cited in a summary of what has been attempted and done, time out of mind, for art and for art’s benefit. With regard to the man, wholly apart from the musician, to know him was to love him – and this not so much because he was socially attractive and fascinating as because he was good and righthearted to the core, and, before all, eminently sincere. Berlioz, who, whatever views may be entertained about his compositions, was a truly wonderful composer, had this enviable privilege – that even those who may have conscientiously objected to his general notions of music, as revealed especially in his own contributions to the art, could not by any means do otherwise than respect him. Among the dissenters from very much that he took infinite pains to promulgate by example was the writer of these valedictory sentences, who enjoyed the happiness of his close friendship for a long term of years, and, in now recording the fact that he is lost to us for ever, does so with a firm conviction that in the death of Berlioz the world is the poorer by an honest, upright man, and an artist of splendid natural endowments. Had chance willed it, he might have been other than what he was; but such as he was, he will be keenly regretted by all with whom he held frequent and kindly interchange of thoughts and opinions, and affectionately remembered by every one who had the privilege of calling him friend.


The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; this page created on 1 December 2008.

© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.

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