Richard Wagner’s Autobiography

My Life – the Autobiography of Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Over the course of his life Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a prolific writer who authored hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as an enormous amount of correspondence. His writings covered a broad range of subjects, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas. Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. He also wrote various autobiographical works, including “My Life” (1880) which we have reproduced here as it gives an insight to Wagners character and personality, and also gives background information on the creation of The Ring of the Nibelung.

My Life, Volume 1 – By Richard Wagner



Part I. 1813-1842

  • Childhood and Schooldays
  • Musical Studies
  • Travels in Germany (First Marriage)
  • Paris: 1839-42

Part II. 1842-1850 (Dresden)

  • ‘Rienzi’
  • ‘The Flying Dutchman’
  • Liszt, Spontini, Marschner, etc.
  • ‘Tannhauser’
  • Franck, Schumann, Semper, Gutzkow, Auerbach
  • ‘Lohengrin’ (Libretto)
  • Ninth Symphony
  • Spohr, Gluck, Hiller, Devrient
  • Official Position.
  • Studies in Historical Literature
  • ‘Rienzi’ at Berlin
  • Relations with the Management, Mother’s Death, etc.
  • Growing Sympathy with Political Events, Bakunin
  • The May Insurrection
  • Flight: Weimar, Zurich, Paris, Bordeaux, Geneva, Zurich


The contents of these volumes have been written down directly from my dictation, over a period of several years, by my friend and wife, who wished me to tell her the story of my life. It was the desire of both of us that these details of my life should be accessible to our family and to our sincere and trusted friends; and we decided therefore, in order to provide against a possible destruction of the one manuscript, to have a small number of copies printed at our own expense. As the value of this autobiography consists in its unadorned veracity, which, under the circumstances, is its only justification, therefore my statements had to be accompanied by precise names and dates; hence there could be no question of their publication until some time after my death, should interest in them still survive in our descendants, and on that point I intend leaving directions in my will.

If, on the other hand, we do not refuse certain intimate friends a sight of these papers now, it is that, relying on their genuine interest in the contents, we are confident that they will not pass on their knowledge to any who do not share their feelings in the matter.

Richard Wagner

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