This candid, intimate, and compellingly written new biography offers a fresh account of Robert Schumann's life. It confronts the traditional perception of the doom-laden Romantic, forced by depression into a life of helpless, poignant sadness. John Worthen's scrupulous attention to the original sources reveals Schumann to have been an astute, witty, articulate, and immensely determined individual, who-with little support from his family and friends in provincial Saxony-painstakingly taught himself his craft as a musician, overcame problem after problem in his professional life, and married the woman he loved after a tremendous battle with her father. Schumann was neither manic depressive nor schizophrenic, although he struggled with mental illness. He worked prodigiously hard to develop his range of musical styles and to earn his living, only to be struck down, at the age of forty-four, by a vile and incurable disease.
Worthen's biography effectively de-mystifies a figure frequently regarded as a Romantic enigma. It frees Schumann from 150 years of mythmaking and unjustified psychological speculation. It reveals him, for the first time, as a brilliant, passionate, resolute musician and a thoroughly creative human being, the composer of arguably the best music of his generation.
John Worthen was Professor of D. H. Lawrence Studies at the University of Nottingham. His books include The Gang: Coleridge, the Hutchinsons and the Wordsworths in 1802 and D. H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider. He lives in Nottingham, England, and in Germany.