Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Search of ... Mrs. Wilhelm Nauck, violin teacher

Mrs. Wilhelm Nauck

Lovecraft has somewhat to say of an 1898-1899 incident that might never have been known otherwise. Sometime after 1897, Susan tried to impose some appreciation of art and music upon Lovecraft, who at first seemed excited about learning the violin, but as time went on and the tedium of practice wore on him, he apparently cracked under the strain shortly after a soloist concert.

His teacher was declared to be Mrs. Wilhelm Nauck. Using some sources found scanned into "Da Google", I was able to piece together a few things.

First, she was a neighbor of sorts. The 1899 Providence House Directory No. 8, shows that she lived at 387 Angell Street! However, there are some oddities. The listing at 387 Angell Street lists: Miss Susan M Cornell (border); Elizabeth G Hicks, widow and homeowner (h); Mrs A.C.S. Nauck, violin teacher (h); Wilhelm Nauck, teacher (h); Mrs M. E. Shepardson (h).

If Howard was going to the house, he would have walked several doors down and passed the Central Congregational Church at the corner, and continued on a bit further. The directory often lists the same person twic eat the same address, for instance at 391 Angell we find the conundrum of Wm. V. Wallace, physician, homeowner, but Wm. V. Wallace, real estate, border. The lessons may not have been at the home of Nauck, however.

There is a listing for W. Nauck in room 18 of the Hoppin Homestead Building (357 Westminster) a bit of a business mall with several of the rooms having music teachers. Nauck is listed as Principal of the European School of Languages. A true renaisance person, Wilhelm Nauck was a memmber of the Providence Athetic Association, and most notable a member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft (more below). There are seven other violin teachers listed in the Providence directory at this time.

We turn back to the other available directory from 1889, and find that at 283 Westminster we have two postings (different pages) for Wilhelm Nauck teaching German.

The Deutsche Gesselschaft was a German club which the State Legistature certified (in 1899) thus: STATE OF RHODE ISLAND (fcc) I Charles P Bennett secretary of state hereby certify that Herman Rosenberg, John L Remlinger, Jacob Ginand, Henry T Molter, F Henry Peycke, Gustav Saacke, Henry R Wirth, Max E Naumann, Herman G Possner, John Scheminger, Otto Gerlach, and John H Althans, have filed in the office of the secretary of state according to law their agreement to form a corporation under the name of Deutsche Gesellschaft for the purpose of social and literary culture in accordance with law and have also filed the certificate of the general treasurer that they have paid into the general treasury of the state the fee required by law. issued July 20 1898. The club is mentioned in the 1907 Old Home Week booklet.

So, in summary, Wilhelm Nauck was a long time resident and teacher of German, and club member, while Mrs. Wilhem Nauck (Mrs. A C S Nauck?) was a violin teacher competing for students against several other teachers in the city. beyond that, not much more can elicited from the data available.

The original recollections of Lovecraft are below:

[To Kleiner, 16 November 1916 in Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner, p. 621] My rhythmic tendencies led me into a love of melody, and I was forever whistling & humming in defiance of convention & good breeding. I was so exact in time & tune, & showed sch a semi-professional precision & flourish in my crude attempts, that my plea for a violin was granted when I was seven years of age, & I was placed under the instruction of the best violin teacher for children in the city — Mrs. Wilhelm Nauck. For two years I made such progress that Mrs. Nauck was entusiastic, & declared that I should adopt music as a career - but all this time the tedium of practising had been wearing shockingly on my always sensitive nervous system. My 'career' extended until 1899, its summit being a public recital at which I played a solo from Mozart before an audience of considerable size. Soon after that, my ambition & taste alike collapsed like a house of cards (to use a trite simile). I began to detest classical music, bcuase it had meant so much painful labour to me; & I positively loathed the violin. Our physician, knowing my temperament, advised an immediate discontinuance of music lessons, which speedily ensued. ... in music I lacked ambition & ability...

[To Kleiner, 16 November 1916 in Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner, p. 71] ... {interest in drama and plays}All this was contemporaneous with my disastrous efforts to acquire musical proficiency. Of my failure in that direction, I can only speak with humiliation. My mother has a well-nigh professional skill both with voice & piano - but I did not inherit her ability for studious application, & proved an utter and ignominious failure with the violin.

(This is also excerpted in A dreamer and a visionary: H.P. Lovecraft in his time By S. T. Joshi, p.35 ; HP Lovecraft: A Life, Joshi, p. 43; Selected Letters, Vol. 1, p. 29, Lovecraft: A Biography, DeCamp, p. 28; Lord of a Visible World, Joshi, p.17)

[10 April 1934 to Barlow] I had a very irregular heart action - badly affected by physical exertion - & such acute kidney trouble that a local practitioner would have operated for stone in the bladder had not a Boston specialist given a sounder diagnosis & traced it to the nervous system. That was when I was 9, & reduced to a very irritable state of pressure of violin lessons. On the specialist's advice those lessons were stopped ... psychologists would probably find something significant in the astonishing speed with which I forgot how to play the violin & even how to read music. I can't read music today.

(This is excerpted in HPL: A Life, Joshi, and found in O Fortunate Floridian, p.125)

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