Georg Hausmann’s missing history
George’s absence from the Hausmann family history
It seems that during Robert’s lifetime, no one knew or acknowledged that Georg had ever existed. He is not mentioned in Bernhard’s long, detailed memoirs that he published at the end of his life in 1873, his Erinnerungen aus dem 80 jährigen Leben eines hannoverschen Bürgers (Hannover, 1873). Nor does he come up in Hermann Schulz’s detailed telling of his family’s past from 1904, Eine deutsche Familie. Aus dem Leben unserer Eltern und Voreltern meinen Geschwistern erzählt. (Schulz was Robert’s nephew.)
Why was Georg apparently considered a family secret?
The reason surely has to do with George committing suicide in 1860 at the age of 46. According to his father’s notes, George had unexpectedly announced his engagement at the end of 1858. Just as suddenly, he announced he engagement was over shortly before the wedding was to take place on June 6, 1860. George played a concert in London that month, but took an unplanned trip home to Hannover at the end of June, where he mother found him standing in their garden “in a lamentable state of body and mind.” After a week, in which he was said to suffer “severe anxiety,” his father found him dead in his room on July 2nd.
Bernhard’s memoirs and unpublished diaries are the only record of George’s family life, and thus are the main source for any clues that would indicate why George would end his life. He took several “cures” at spas in various places for unspecified health reasons, but so did his other family members. The mother seems to have been in chronically poor health, described as “nerves,” most of her adult life. Bernhard led a very full and active life well into his 80s, but he frequently accompanied his wife to various spas in Germany and Switzerland. Taking cures and visits to spas could therefore indicate any number of things.
Published accounts of George’s activities during his lifetime are the other source for clues. The reviews that appeared about him during his career document the ups and downs of a freelancer. As one would expect, the private music making is only occasionally referenced in the papers and in the father’s notes. It seems that when George played solos on concerts, he often played in a bravura style with special effects, such as imitating a bagpipe. This was met with mixed reviews—some referred to him as the Paganini of the cello, while others found it in bad taste and not even qualifying as music. His work as a collaborative musician in chamber music groups was not evaluated in any detail. There are a couple reviews that suggest the presence of the “nerves” that made him take an extended break in 1858: in one from 1854, he is described as rushing out of the concert during the applause for his performance; and in the other, from 1856, he is admonished for distracting behavior.
In 1857 it was announced that he would be going to America for a tour; a couple months later this was retracted. He spent the end of that year giving concerts in Frankfurt and Vienna, that lasted into 1858. The reviews were extremely positive, but were followed by an announcement in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in April 1858 that he was ill and for the first time in 20 years would not be spending the season in London. George spent more than three months in Switzerland, after which he visited his parents who were themselves taking a cure in Wildbad; his father found thought him “much improved.” By October he was back performing in the northern parts of England and in Scotland. He appears to have functioned at a high level and taken on additional roles of concert conductor and organizer with success. He conducted The Creation in 1859 and again in 1860, and created a classical concert series in Edinburgh that featured top attractions, including the pianists Charles Halle and Arabella Goddard.
The engagement that surprised his family seems to have been the only indicator that George was not doing well.