Industry, Thrift, and Loyalty

Robert and Clara Schumann by Eduard Kaiser, 1847

On 13th September 1840, the day after their wedding and on Clara’s 21st birthday, Robert Schumann wrote the first entry in a diary with a difference. Designed to be a shared sanctuary for the newlyweds, the diary was a place for them to alternately record their aspirations, joys, and challenges: an intimate conversation between two prodigious musicians deeply committed to each other and their craft. The diary ran for four years, capturing not just the highs of their artistic endeavours and a remarkable concert tour to Russia in 1844, but also the lows, including Robert’s recurring bouts of illness and depression, and the shadow cast by Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, who continued to undermine their relationship even after failing to prevent their marriage. The following entry, written by Robert, was the first of many.

The Diary Entry

On 13th September 1840.

My dearly beloved young wife,

First of all let me kiss you most tenderly on this day, your first day as a wife, the first of your 22nd year. This little book, which I inaugurate today, has a very intimate meaning; it shall be a diary about everything that touches us mutually in our household and marriage; our wishes, our hopes shall be recorded therein; it should also be a little book of requests that we direct toward one another whenever words are insufficient; also one of mediation and reconciliation whenever we have had a misunderstanding; in short, it shall be our good, true friend, to whom we entrust everything, to whom we open our hearts. If you agree with that, dear wife, then promise me to hold strictly to the statutes of our secret marriage vows, as I hereby promise you.

Once a week we will trade the secretarial duties, exchanging the diary every Sunday (early, at coffee time, if possible) so that nobody can be kept from also adding a kiss. Then the text will be read, silently or aloud, depending on what the content demands, forgotten items will be added, wishes will be listened to, proposals made and granted, indeed all events of the week carefully evaluated to see whether they were worthy and efficient, whether our inner and outer values have been strengthened, and whether we have gained ever more perfection in our beloved art.

The recording of one week may never amount to less than a single page; whoever fails in this respect shall receive some sort of punishment, which we will have to figure out. Should it occur to one member of our marital team not to turn anything in for a whole week, then the penalty will be made very much harsher—an almost unimaginable circumstance, considering our well-known mutual high esteem and sense of duty.

All these statements and rules are also to be adhered to on travels and the like, and the diary must always come along.

One of the highlights of our little diary, as I say, will be the criticism of our artistic accomplishments; e.g., what you have been studying especially, what you are composing, what new things you have learned, and what you think about them will be entered in detail; the same holds for me. Another major adornment of the book will be character descriptions, e.g., of important artists we have closely encountered. Anecdotes and humorous matters shall by no means be excluded.

However, the most beautiful and heartfelt content of the book I would rather not yet mention, my dear wife: your beautiful hopes and mine, which heaven might bless; your and my worries, which married life brings with it; in short, all the joys and sorrows of marital life should be written down here as a true history, which should give us pleasure even in old age.

If you agree with all this, wife of my heart, then sign your name underneath mine, and let us pronounce three words as a talisman on which all happiness in life depends:

Industry, Thrift, and Loyalty.

I am truly your sincerely loving husband Robert, and you?

Further Reading

Originally published in German, this joint diary was translated into English by Peter Ostwald in 1993 and released by Northeastern University Press with the title, The Marriage Diaries of Robert & Clara Schumann: From Their Wedding Day through the Russia Trip. Copies are floating around, but they are expensive.

The Marriage Diaries of Robert and Clara Schumann: From Their Wedding Day to the Russia Trip edited by Gerd Nauhaus. Translation copyright © 1993 by Peter Ostwald. Northeastern University Press. Reproduced with permission.

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