The book in question in Schauffler's 1929 biography Beethoven: The Man Who Freed Music. It is what you might call an old-fashioned celebrity biography. It was pretty popular in its time—since my own project involves a fair amount of reception study, I've been getting reacquainted with it. When I read it, I feel like I should put on a smoking jacket and pour myself a cognac. Here's an example:
The infant [this is Ludwig], who was to be worshipped as "the saviour of music" by wise men yet unborn, first made himself heard in a room assuredly more lowly and probably more picturesque than the manger of Bethlehem. A man of average height must stoop under the beams of the little mansard chamber in No. 20 Bonngasse. On the wall outside an old crane still hangs, and a splendid vine with a stem now thick as a man's leg. In the garden there is a portentous pendulum pump four yards tall.And so on, for nearly 600 pages. And yes, he maintains that style for pretty much the whole way. Every time I pick it up, I'm reminded of Umberto Eco's deconstruction of James Bond novels:
For Ludwig himself it was unlucky to have been born under such conditions. Poverty and family misery bore harder on him as a child than they ever have on any other great composer, not excepting Haydn. But for the world it was a huge piece of luck that he descended from a cook, a valet's widow, and a poor drunken singer and had ancestors with liberty-loving Flemish blood in their veins. If he had been born into the German "society" of the day he might never have emancipated music from the bonds of fashion. (pp. 8-9)
The minute descriptions constitute, not encyclopaedic information, but literary evocation. Indubitably, if an underwater swimmer swims towards his death and I glimpse above him a milky and calm sea and vague shapes of phosphorescent fish which skim by him, his act is inscribed within the framework of an ambiguous and eternal indifferent Nature which evokes a kind of profound and moral conflict. Usually Journalism, when a diver is devoured by a shark, says that, and it is enough. If someone embellishes this death with three pages of description of coral, is not that Literature?As scholarship, Schauffler's biography has been surpassed many times over (and keep in mind that this is the same author who produced the juicy but unreliable The Unknown Brahms), but as a stylistic affirmation of the heroic Beethoven in excelsis it's hard to beat. No wonder he keeps coming back.