WSB’s Diaries

Some quotations from Sterndale Bennett’s diaries:

28th October 1836
Hotel de St Petersburg, Berlin

8.30 in the morning. I arrived in the town about two hours since. We have been 34 hours coming from Hamburg, a distance of about 152 miles. The roads for the first twenty miles were very bad. Afterwards our travelling amounted to about seven miles an hour, but of the six people on the coach on ‘snell-post’, one was foreign and the rest were English. All ye voyagers, beware of the quantity of luggage ye bring with you. The weight of my baggage amounted to 65 lbs and thirty is only allowed by the post office. Consequently I had to pay the excess at 7 Marks and 8 schillings.

24th December 1836
Xmas eve went by engagement to Madame Voigt. In Germany on this evening it is customary to have a small tree. I believe it is called Christ-baum. It is lighted with candles placed on a table, under which is placed all the presents which are destined for the visitors. I came in for my share of the toothpick cases, boxes of bonbons and other sundry articles, but I must not forget to mention that I received a small cigar nearly half a yard long.

20th January 1837
Last night I played at the concert at the Gewandhaus and to all accounts made a satisfactory debut. I did not play so well as I can do when I am thoroughly comfortable. I had a bad clavier, not strong enough. However I am perfectly satisfied with the whole affair.

13th February 1837
Yesterday they rehearsed my overture in the Gewandhaus. It did not please me. Too much noise. So today at the second rehearsal I dispensed with the trombones and like it all the better. Tonight at the concert I shall direct it myself as Mendelssohn wishes me to do so.

19th February 1837
Dinner with the Voigt’s. This eating will kill me.

13th April 1837
Twenty-one today. Can hardly fancy myself a man. But I’ll be hanged if I am not, at least according to law. Thank God for all things. I look back in life and wish I had done more but nevertheless I have not been a regular scamp and won’t now if I can help it.

Got up early this morning and found my room ornamented with green and a wreath of flowers from Julius Kistner. I can’t help wishing myself in England but the people here are very civil , so it is perhaps an ungrateful wish.

A birthday breakfast
At half past eleven my visitors began to arrive. Monockie, Kistner, Frank, von Goethe, Dr Harper, Schreg, Cyard, Schumann and afterwards Beneckie. Eating began at 12. And drinking afterwards.

Schumann sent me a letter of Martin Luther. Mrs Voigt one of Weber. Von Goethe gave me his grandfather’s works, Mr Cyard sent me a silver Cigar case and lastly Mr Kistner presented me something in a basket with a laurel wreath which looked like a tea caddy, but turned out to be a box containing a silver cup and plate from the Concert Directors.

In the evening went to a party at Monockie’s where I saw cake on the table illuminated with 21 candles which I believe is the German custom. A jolly day altogether. Never come again, that’s certain.

13th October 1837
Frankfurt, Hotel de Rousse

Arrived here last night from Mainz about ten o’clock, ate supper and drank a bottle of English Porter which we were very glad to get.

10th June 1837
Dined with Beneckie and played at cricket with some Englishmen which made the Germans stare very much as they had never seen the game before. We had English bats and bails

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