more eccentric than that founder of the modern German
operatic school, Richard Wagner. The caller who was
unaware of one of his peculiarities might suffer a mild
shock ; for on entering the room where his visitor was
seated Wagner would throw the door wide open before
him, as if it were fit that his approach should be heralded
like that of a king, and he would stand for a moment on
the threshold, a curious mediaeval figure in a frame.
The mystified visitor, rising from his seat, would behold
a man richly clad in a costume of velvet and satin,
like those of the early Tudor period, and wearing a bonnet
such as are seen in portraits of Henry VI, and his
three successors. Buffon used to put on lace ruffles and
cuffs when he wrote, and Wagner had his composing
costume that of a Meistersinger or rather several costumes,
for he would vary his attire not only according
to his own moods, but according to the faces of people
who came to see him.
Alexander Dumas, calling upon him made some goodhumored
remark about his own ignorance of music
which he had once defined as ' the most expensive of
noises '; but his pleasantries were listened to with such
a smileless stolidity that he went home in a huff, and
wrote his contemptuous protest against
'Wagnerian din inspired by the riot of
cats scampering in the dark about an ironmonger's shop.'
On the day before this protest was printed Wagner
returned Dumas' visit, and was kept waiting for half an
hour in an anteroom.
Then the author of the "Three Guardsmen " marched
in, superbly attired in a plumed helmet, a cork life belt
and a flowered dressing gown.
"Excuse me for appearing in my working dress," he said
majestically. "Half my ideas are lodged in this helmet and the
other half in a pair of jack-boots which I put on to compose love
cenes." Snubs of this sort of which Wagner encountered
many rankled deep in his mind and made him say that
the French were Vandals, whereas, in truth, their quarrel
was not so much with his music as with him personally
and with his uncivil followers.
From Anecdotes of great musicians; three hundred anecdotes and biographical sketches of famous composers and performers