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Haydn: The Man
Face and Features--Portraits--Social Habits--Partial to Pretty Women--His Letters--His
Humour--His Generosity--Unspoiled by Success--His Piety--His Industry--Habits of
Composition-- Impatient of Pedantry.
Face and Features
Something of Haydn's person and character will have already been gathered from the
foregoing pages. He considered himself an ugly man, and, in Addison's words, thought
that the best expedient was "to be pleasant upon himself." His face was deeply pitted with
small-pox, and the nose, large and aquiline, was disfigured by the polypus which he had
inherited from his mother. In complexion he was so dark as to have earned in some
quarters the familiar nickname of "The Moor." His underlip was thick and hanging, his
jaw massive. "The mouth and chin are Philistine," wrote Lavater under his silhouette,
noting, at the same time, "something out of the common in the eyes and the nose." The
eyes were dark gray. They are described as "beaming with benevolence," and he used to
say himself: "Anyone can see by the look of me that I am a good-natured sort of fellow."
In stature he was rather under the middle height, with legs disproportionately short, a
defect rendered more noticeable by the style of his dress, which he refused to change with
the changes of fashion. Dies writes: "His features were regular, his expression animated,
yet, at the same time, temperate, gentle and attractive. His face wore a stern look when in
repose, but in conversation it was smiling and cheerful. I never heard him laugh out loud.
His build was substantial, but deficient in muscle." Another of his acquaintances says that
"notwithstanding a cast of physiognomy rather morose, and a short way of expressing
himself, which seemed to indicate an ill-tempered man, the character of Haydn was gay,
open and humorous." From these testimonies we get the impression of a rather unusual
combination of the attractive and the repulsive, the intellectual and the vulgar. What
Lavater described as the "lofty and good" brow was partly concealed by a wig, with side
curls, and a pig-tail, which he wore to the last. His dress as a private individual has not
been described in detail, but the Esterhazy uniform, though frequently changing in colour
and style, showed him in knee-breeches, white stockings, lace ruffles and white
neckcloth. This uniform he never wore except when on actual duty.
After his death there were many portraits in chalks, engraved, and modeled in wax.
Notwithstanding his admission of the lack of personal graces, he had a sort of feminine
objection to an artist making him look old. We read that, in 1800, he was "seriously
angry" with a painter who had represented him as he then appeared. "If I was Haydn at
forty," said he, "why should you transmit to posterity a Haydn of seventy-eight?" Several
writers mention a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and even give details of the sittings,
but he never sat to Reynolds, whose eyesight had begun to fail before Haydn's arrival in
England. During his first visit to London Hoppner painted his portrait at the special
request of the Prince of Wales. This portrait was engraved by Facius in 1807, and is now