Sexual Fables
This article accompanies the fable
Immortal Beloved

A Truly Unknown Woman?

In her diary, a young Fanny del Rio records the visit Beethoven made to her father in 1816.  She writes that Beethoven said that five years earlier he had found the perfect love: “Five years ago he had become acquainted with a person, a more intimate union with whom he would have considered the greatest happiness of his life.  It was not to be thought of, almost impossible, a chimera.  Nevertheless, it was still as on the very first day.”  It seems unlikely that Therese Malfatti or Amalie Sebald or these others could have inspired this kind of language given the tone of the letters addressed to them.  But then who was she?  The only woman from 1812 who might fit the bill is therefore a truly Unknown Woman, a view first put forward by O.G. Sonneck in his The Riddle of the Immortal Beloved (1927).


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