Richard Wagner, His Sufferings and Greatness

In 1933, Thomas Mann put his thoughts about Wagner to paper in this essay, calling Wagner a product of the 19th century: “greatness, of a turbid, suffering kind; disillusioned yet bitterly, fanatically aware of truth; conscious too of the brief, incredulous bliss to be snatched from beauty as she flies–such greatness as this was the meaning and mark of the nineteenth century.” Relying on letters, Mann deconstructs Wagner’s process, calling him a dilettante for his all-encompassing art (visual, musical, poetical), and somewhat belittling Wagner’s words, saying to keep in mind it must not be read, but must be accompanied by gesture, music and picture and is only poetry when all these elements are there, “purely as composition it is often bombastic, baroque, even childish…”
Mann calls Schopenhauer’s influence “the greatest event in Wagner’s life,” saying that it freed his music to be itself. Wagner himself writes “My friend Schopenhauer… a gift from heaven to my loneliness… But one friend I have whom I love ever to win anew. That is my old Schopenhauer, who seems so grumpy and is always deeply loving.” (P.S. they were decidedly NOT friends– Schopenhauer had no interest in Wagner)
Also in this essay I discovered the odd habit Schiller had of keeping rotten apples in a nearby drawer while he worked, finding that he could not work without that smell, but which made Goethe nearly faint when he discovered them after dropping in on his pal.
The essay also details Baudelaire’s love of Wagner, and juxtaposes it with Baudelaire’s love of Edgar Allen Poe, putting Wagner as a “glorious brother and comrade of all these sufferers from life, given to pity…” It made me realize the interconnectedness of all these works; you can’t just study one aspect of culture but have to open your mouth wide to pour in every corner before swishing it around to get a taste. I wonder if it’s always as easy to discern who has impacted whom– most likely clues get left behind in journals, reading logs, letters.