The Family Letters of Richard Wagner

Published by University of Michigan Press in 1992.


This collection of letters from Wagner to his family spans the fifty years 1832-82. It was first compiled by Carl Friedrich Glasenapp in 1907 as the Familienbriefe. Translated into English and supplemented in 1911 by William Ashton Ellis, it became a standard source for students of Wagner’s biography.

This edition has been enlarged by John Deathridge who has added an introduction and more than sixty items, including several previously unpublished letters and passages suppressed by Glasenapp in the original edition. Extracts from letters written by some of Wagner’s relatives have also been added. Among the previously unpublished letters are those to his brother-in-law Oswald Marbach and nephew Clemens Brockhaus. Most of the other additional letters have not appeared in English before. They include another letter to Clemens Brockhaus about Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and the only two known to exist from Wagner to his brother Julius. Also included are letters from Wagner to his brother Albert and his niece, the soprano Johanna Jachmann-Wagner, who sang the role of Elisabeth in the first performance of Tannhäuser. Wagner writes that he conceived the part of Brünnhilde in the Ring for his niece, although she was never to perform it. Wagner’s correspondence with his nephew Albert Jachmann, who helped to organize his visit to London in 1877, and letters from Wagner to his step-daughter Daniela von Bülow (including an amusing one addressed to all his children) conclude the collection.

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