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AmicoThe Life of Giovanni Battista Viotti$

Warwick Lister

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195372403

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195372403.001.0001

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(p.385) APPENDIX FOUR Viotti's Letter to the Prince della Cisterna

(p.385) APPENDIX FOUR Viotti's Letter to the Prince della Cisterna

Oxford University Press


Viotti's Letter to the Prince della Cisterna

Appendix Four Appendix Four


My Prince

I have learned with the greatest emotion of the sincere interest that Your Excellence has deigned to take in my miserable disaster; and the assurance that my friend Cerruti gave me of it, proving to me that the compassionate heart of my Benefactor remains unchanged, moved me to tears.

No, my Prince, believe me, I have never been unworthy of your kindnesses, and however much it may seem that my youth was perhaps a little too high spirited, I venture to think that if ever I have the pleasure of recounting to Your Excellence all the circumstances of my life, of describing faithfully the good and the bad, of weighing the faults of fortune against my own, I venture to think, I say, that you will pity me rather than blame me.

O my Prince, would that you had granted me your protection to be a good peasant, instead of to acquire a skill! My gratitude and your benevolence would have been the same, and my suffering so much less that I would have been spared the heartbreak. The time we pass on this earth is not worth the effort, and to eat the cabbages that one has planted oneself,1 to lead a simple and modest life amidst one's children, is worth infinitely more, I believe, than the vain hope for fame and fortune, by which I have let myself be carried away.

It is once again this miserable talent that is the cause of my present disgrace. The Supreme Being, that Being who sees everything, who judges everything, knows whether I have deserved it or not. My Prince, I am innocent, I have nothing for which to reproach myself, not even an indiscretion. But such was the power of those who wished to bring me down, that a pure and spotless conduct of six years could not save me from [their] traps of the blackest (p.386) maliciousness. There is a Providence, however, and justice will be done. Confident of the purity of my actions, I await with resignation the end of my sufferings. That happy hour will not, I hope, be long in coming; the friends I left in England, and the general tokens of attachment and esteem that I received there before my departure, assure me that this hope is well founded: but were it to be mistaken, may I yet find some consolation in the depths of my heart, since it is beyond reproach. This consolation will be all the greater, my Prince, if I have the pleasure of convincing Your Excellence of this truth. Your opinion means more to me than any other, and it will be a great relief if it reaches me [here] in my retreat such as I wish for and as I deserve.

Your Excellence will see from the date of this letter that I am lodged in the country, nine miles from Hamburg, at the home of a rich English merchant, a good, faithful friend. We lead the life of two good farmers; he busies himself with the fields, I work in the gardens. The city rarely sees me. Excepting those days when my wine business (which thank heaven for the care taken by my partner in London proceeds just as if I were there) obliges me to go there, I am never tempted to set foot there. The people we receive here are all good and worthy merchants. I almost never concern myself with music because it has caused me too much pain, and thus the bitter days pass, that end only very slowly.

I hope that Your Excellence is well, that you enjoy all the happiness that a man can hope to enjoy. If Heaven heeds my wishes, no one on earth will be happier than you, my Prince. Deign to pardon all the details that my heavy heart has forced me to describe, and believe that, for all my life, I will be, with the deepest gratitude, and the most profound attachment and respect,

of your Excellence,

the most humble and most obedient servant,

[signed] G.B. Viotti


(*) Translation from the original French. The manuscript is in Biella, Archivio di Stato: Famiglia Dal Pozzo della Cisterna, Storia della Famiglia II, mazzo 11, fasc. 56. It is transcribed in Casseti and Signorelli 1994, 122–24.

(1.) Viotti knew that the prince would be familiar with the famous bon mot of the emperor Diocletian.