Translation © Robert W. Eshbach, 2013
Albert Dietrich to Joseph Joachim [i]
Düsseldorf, 28 February 
I have infinitely sad news to communicate to you and our Johannes. Pardon me for withholding the specific details at the moment—I am still too upset to write them down. In a recent letter to Brahms I hinted at Schumann’s dire nervous condition. This has deteriorated, day by day. He heard music incessantly, often of the most beautiful kind, often also excruciatingly hideous. Later, spirit-voices joined in, which, as he believed, told him the most dreadful and the most beautiful things. A week ago Saturday, came the first violent attack of despair. Since then, Schumann was clearly mentally disturbed; the spirits allowed him not a moment of peace. I was with him 3 times daily; usually he appeared to be in a calm state; only occasionally did he indicate that something horrible might happen, which the spirits urged him to carry out—and he has attempted it;—on Monday—yesterday—at about noon he found a way to sneak out of the house—Hasenclever, I and a number of others searched until nearly 1:30 without success. Around this time he returned, brought by 4 boatmen;—they had rescued him from the Rhein; he had plunged in from the middle of the pontoon bridge. Now he is apparently sane as before, and yet so mentally disturbed that he is not expected to recover in the near future—although the doctors have not yet given up hope.—His wife is, as you might well imagine, hysterical with pain and despair; still, we were able to conceal the worst of it from her. Nevertheless, she seems to have an inkling—she shall not find out—since then, she is not allowed to go to him, but lives with Frl. Leser and consumes herself with longing. Only I, and no one except the doctors and caretakers are allowed to go to him—he will likely be taken to a well-run sanatorium.
What I have suffered, you may well imagine. I was very sick and am still ailing, so that I am often seized, as with fever shivers. I hope that I will soon be able to send you better news—I will send news again soon.
Schumann was not able to look at your Overture. I studied it thoroughly until Monday. I admire the sublime work most profoundly—will gladly write you quite a lot about it—but today it is impossible.
[i] Joachim/BRIEFE I, pp. 165-166.