Richard Wagner and Dumas
Of the score of greatest composers, perhaps none was 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.