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Franz Liszt


This is an excerpt from Bram's Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906), in which he recollects with characteristically dry wit the great Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt's visit to the Lyceum Theatre. 

Notable anecdotes include the necessity of fortifying Liszt's theatre seats against his many prying fans, and Irving and Liszt's resemblance and eccentric congeniality. While Liszt was not necessarily a close friend of Bram's, they travelled in some of the same social circles and seem to have gotten on famously.

Franz Liszt

As it was necessary to keep away all who might intrude upon him — enthusiasts, interviewers, cranks, autograph-fiends, notoriety seekers who would like to be seen in his box — we arranged a sort of fortress for him. Next to the royal box on the grand tier O.P. was another box separated only by a partition, part of which could be taken down. This box was on the outside from the Proscenium. We had the door of this box screwed up so that entrance to it could only be had through the royal box. Liszt sat here with some of the others unassailable, as one of the Mr. Littletons kept the key of the other box and none could obtain entrance without permission.

There was an interesting party at supper in the Beefsteak Room, amongst them, in addition to the party at the play, the following: Ellen Terry, Professor Max Muller, Lord and Lady Wharncliffe, Sir Alexander and Lady Mackenzie, Sir Alfred Cooper, Walter Bach and Miss Bach, Sir Morell Mackenzie, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Littleton, Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Littleton, Mr. and Mrs. William Beatty Kingston, and the Misses Casella.

Liszt sat on the right hand of Ellen Terry who faced Irving. From where I sat at the end of the table I could not but notice the quite extraordinary resemblance in the profiles of the two men. After supper Irving went round and sat next him and the likeness became a theme of comment from all present. Irving was then forty-eight years of age; but he looked still a young man, with raven black hair and face without a line. His neck was then without a line or mark of age. Liszt, on the other hand, looked older than his age. His stooping shoulders and long white hair made him seem of patriarchal age. Nevertheless the likeness of the two men was remarkable. Stavenhagen played, but as it was thought by all that Liszt must be too tired after a long day no opening was made for him much as all longed to hear him. The party did not break up till four o'clock in the morning. The note in my diary runs: "Liszt fine face — leonine — several large pimples — prominent chin of old man — long white hair down on shoulders — all call him ' Master' — must have had great strength in youth. Very sweet and simple in manner. H. I. and he very much alike — seemed old friends as they talked animatedly though knowing but a few words of each other's language — but using much expression and gesticulation. It was most interesting."

The next day Irving and my wife and I, together with some others, lunched with the Baroness Burdett-Coutts in Stratton Street to meet Liszt. After lunch there was a considerable gathering of friends asked to meet him. Lady Burdett-Coutts very thoughtfully had the pianos removed from the drawing-rooms, lest their presence might seem as though he were expected to play. After a while he noticed the absence and said to his hostess:

"I see you have no pianos in these rooms!" She answered frankly that she had had them removed so that he would not be tempted to play unless he wished to do so.

"But I would like some music!" he said, and then went on: "I have no doubt but there is a piano in the house, and that it could be brought here easily!"

It was not long before the servants brought into the great drawing-room a grand piano worthy of even his hands. Then Antoinette Sterling sang some ballads in her own delightful way with the contralto whose tones went straight to one's heart.

"Now I will play!" said Liszt. And he did! It was magnificent and never to be forgotten.

-Bram Stoker, Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906)

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