As much as I hunt through the records, skimpy though they may be from time to time, I have yet to find an instance where Haydn actually had a holiday, besides the busman's sort such as his trip to Graz in 1787 to do some charity work. But in England, after the end of the 1791 concert season, he finally had an opportunity to enjoy what might have been the most extended vacation of his life!
His first two notebooks, although they are often called a 'diary', are really just a series of jottings of thoughts which came into his head. Apparently, he picked up one or the other of them every day, not caring which, so trying to make any sort of order based on internal evidence is more than we can hope for. But there is also a fair record by outsiders to go along with, which allows us to see just what Haydn's extended summer vacation entailed. After the return from Oxford, Haydn went on an extended stay to Hertfordshire. This from the London Notebook No. 1:
On 4th August , I went to visit Herr Brassy*, the banker who lives in the country, 12 miles from London. Stayed there 5 weeks. I was very well entertained. N.B.: Herr Brassy once cursed, because he had had too easy a time in this world.
[Landon] *NATHANIEL BRASSEY and his family lived at Roxford, about a mile from the village of Hertingfordbury in Hertfordshire; Haydn taught music to the daughter in London. Brassey tried to shoot himself but was dissuaded. Brassey died in 1798 and lies buried in the local parish churchyard.
Interesting here, how Haydn (typically) underplays the human drama in such a little story. Brassey, in fact, did a bit more than curse. As Dies tells us, Haydn was invited along for the family vacation. During the course of the evenings of chatting, the subject of the splendor which surrounded both the Brassey's and Haydn in London, was a frequent topic of conversation, especially when compared to the impecunious background which Haydn was born into:
One evening during one of these conversations, Brassey jumped up, and swore as if one possessed [thus the once cursed remark], and swore that if he had a loaded pistol he would shoot himself on the spot.
Haydn jumped up meanwhile and shouted "Quick, help, quick: don't shoot me!" He thought he had only one life, and it was too soon to lose it!
The banker's wife and several others hurried thither in alarm. The banker called out to them, "bring the pistols, I'm going to shoot myself". The people who had hurried in sought to discover the cause of this murderous intent. The banker long refused an answer. When they finally implored of him with tears in their eyes, he repeated again the strongest of oaths, and protested he was going to shoot himself because he had never known misfortune. Grief, misery and need, he did not know, could say nothing of them from his own experience, but, as he now observed, [he] was still not happy, because he only knew eating and drinking: he only knew superabundance and hence detested it.
An odd event, one which Haydn scarcely noted in his pocket book, and yet, fourteen years later when discussing it with Dies, he remembered every word as though it just happened the day before. I include this story here, not because Brassey was a hugely important historic figure, but rather because the empathetic way in which Haydn remembered and related it tells much of the sort of impression it made on him.
The same day Haydn left town for the visit with the Brassey's, he took a moment to write this letter to Polzelli, mainly to acknowledge news of the death of her husband, Antonio. He had been invalided (with tuberculosis) for nearly ten years now, during which time she took care of him, as well as the children, and also sang at the Opera and took care of Haydn's special needs. The time is rapidly approaching when Haydn's world has changed though, and he along with it.
[To LUIGIA POLZELLI, VIENNA. Italian} "Tu" form]
London, 4th August 1791.
I hope that you will have received my last letter through Count Fries and also the hundred florins [Gulden] which I transferred to you. I would like to do more, but at present I cannot. As far as your husband is concerned, I tell you that Providence has done well to liberate you from this heavy yoke, and for him, too, it is better to be in another world than to remain useless in this one. The poor man has suffered enough.
Dear Polzelli, perhaps, perhaps the time will come, which we both so often dreamt of, when four eyes shall be closed. Two are closed, but the other two…. enough of all this, it shall be as God wills. Meanwhile, pay attention to your health, I beg of you, and write me very soon, because for quite some time now I have had days of depression without really knowing why, and your letters cheer me, even when they are sad.
Good bye, dear Polzelli, the mail won't wait any longer. I kiss your family and remain always,
Your most sincere
[Address:] Madame Polzelli
Virtuosa di Musica a Vienna en Autriche
Perhaps it was the short taste of ocean-going which he had gotten on the Channel voyage, but it seems like Haydn has developed an interest in ships and being on the water. These are three consecutive entries in the Notebook;
In the month of August  I lunched at noon on an East India merchantman with 6 cannon. I was given a magnificent meal.
In this same month I went with Mr. [William] Fraser up the Tems [Thames] from Westminster Bridge to Richmond, where we ate on an island. There were 24 persons in our party, besides a Feld Musik [wind band].
In England, a large man-of-war is reckoned according to the number of its cannon. Each cannon is estimated at 1,000 lbs.
As we know, there is nothing new under the sun. Haydn paid homage to this aphorism with a single word entry, the very last word in Notebook #1:
Fortunately, Landon helps us out with this info:
FRANZ KOTZWARA, a native of Prague, was engaged by Gallini as viola player in 1790 (he had been in Ireland previously). On 2nd September 1791, he visited a house of ill fame in Vine Street, St. Martin's, and paid a whore a guinea to hang him. His death caused considerable excitement in the Press. (Landon)
Landon is a bit shy to discuss erotic asphyxiation, but the Kozwarra link has the whole, interesting story. And Parke (William Parke, Musical Memoirs, London 1830) tells us that Kotzwara's main means of support was to write 'imitative' music, in his case, chamber music after Haydn, Pleyel and other Continental favorites. In other words, we finally get to meet one of those people who write 'works by Haydn' and sell them to publishers. Just in time for him to get hung in a brothel! One wonders if Haydn knew about the fraudulent music business, or if he merely preserved the name out of a feeling of sadness over the story about a person he knew. Parke goes on to tell us how the trial turned out:
As it was proved that he was suspended by his own desire, and that neither he nor the parties implicated in the transaction ever contemplated death, the whores were acquitted…
One thing Haydn couldn't escape was his fame, which followed him around the countryside like Coleridge's albatross;
On 14th Sept.  I dined for the first time at Mr. Shaw's. He received me downstairs at the door, and then led me to his wife, who was surrounded by her 2 daughters and other ladies. As I was bowing round the circle, all at once I became aware of the fact that not only the lady of the house but also her daughters and the other women each wore on their headdress a parte over the front a most charming curved, pearl-colored band of 3 fingers' breadth, with the name Haydn embroidered therein in gold; and Mr. Shaw wore this name on his coat, worked into the very ends of both his collars in the finest steel beads. The coat was made of the finest cloth, and with elegant steel buttons. The Mistress is the most beautiful woman I ever saw.
N.B. : Her husband wanted a souvenir from me, and I gave him a tobacco-box which I had just bought brand new for a guinea; he gave me his instead. Several days later I visited him, and saw that he had had a silver case put over my box, on the cover of which was very elegantly engraved Apollo's harp and the following words: "Ex dono celeberrimi Josephi Haydn" N.B. The Mistress gave me a stickpin as a souvenir.
Nor has Haydn forgotten Marianne, it is just that the letter he wrote her about Oxford went astray and she never received it. The letter which he sent her as a follow-up, though, is, in my opinion, one of the most important letters which we will see from this period;
[To MARIA ANNA VON GENZINGER, VIENNA. German]
Nobly born and gracious Lady !
I have received no reply as yet to my 2nd letter of 3rd July, which I entrusted to a composer here, Herr Diettenhofer1, together with the pianoforte arrangement of a little Andante from one of my new Symphonies2, to give to Your Grace; nor have I any answer either about the Symphony in E flat3 which I asked for; and so I cannot wait any longer to enquire after Your Grace's health, and that of your husband and all your dear family. Could it be that the odious proverb, "Out of sight, out of mind", is true everywhere? Oh no! either urgent affairs, or the loss of my letter and the Symphony, are responsible. I feel sure that Herr von Keess [sic] is quite willing to send the Symphony I asked for, because he said so in his letter to me; but since both of us will have to bear this loss, we shall have to leave it to Providence. I flatter myself that I shall receive a short answer to this.
Now, my dear good gracious lady, how is your fortepiano ? Is a Haydnish thought brought to mind, now and then, by your fair hand ? Does my dear Fraulein Pepi sometimes sing poor Ariadne…? Oh yes ! I can hear it even here, especially during the last two months, when I have been living in the country, amid the loveliest scenery, with a banker's family where the atmosphere is like that of the Gennzinger family, and where I live as if I were in a monastery. I am all right, thank the good Lord! except for my usual rheumatism; I work hard, and when in the early mornings I walk in the woods, alone, with my English grammar, I think of my Creator, my family, and all the friends I have left behind and of these, you are the ones I most value. Of course I had hoped to have the pleasure of seeing you sooner, but my circumstances in short, fate will have it that I remain in London another 8 or 10 months. Oh, my dear gracious lady! How sweet this bit of freedom really is! I had a kind Prince, but sometimes I was forced to be dependent on base souls. I often sighed for release, and now I have it in some measure. I appreciate the good sides of all this, too, though my mind is burdened with far more work. The realization that I am no bond-servant makes ample amends for all my toils. But, dear though this liberty is to me, I should like to enter Prince Esterhazy's service again when I return, if only for the sake of my family. I doubt whether this will be possible, however, for in his letter my Prince strongly objects to my staying away for so long, and absolutely demands my speedy return; but I can't comply with this, owing to a new contract which I have just made here. And now, unfortunately, I expect my dismissal, whereby I hope that God will give me the strength to make up for this loss, at least partly, by my industry. Meanwhile I console myself by the hope of hearing something soon from Your Grace. You shall receive my promised new Symphony in two months, but in order to inspire me with good ideas, I beg Your Grace to write, and to write a long letter, too, to one who is ever Your Grace's most sincere friend and obedient servant,
London, 17th September 1791.
My respectful compliments to Herr von Gennzinger and the whole family. Please forgive my taking the liberty of enclosing a letter to Herr von Keess, but I didn't have his address.
1. (as subsequent correspondence shows), JOSEPH DIETTENHOFER was a Viennese composer who had lived for some time in England: see also letter of 20th December 1791.
2. No. 95 in C minor
3. No. 91
Haydn had written to the Prince on July 20th to ask for an extension of his leave of absence. The Prince replied with a big, fat "NO" on August 12, while Haydn was off with the Brassey family. As we see here, he has chosen to ignore the no! Can anyone reading this imagine him doing such a thing even five years before? This is a major breakthrough for Haydn, and I really take great joy in highlighting it here. Even though he is talking about wanting to have the Prince held in reserve to provide security for retirement, the fact that he has decided not to dedicate the remainder of his working life to anyone but himself is a clear sign of how things have changed, not only in the world at large, but in this erstwhile poster child for Aristocratic Patronage!
The other part of this letter which I quite relish involves the scene of Haydn's daily walks through the woods, alone, praying and reading his English grammar. The beauty and solitude of the countryside had to have been a tremendous restorative for the soul of this denizen of the country. The two Gainsborough paintings in this essay, the first a detail of Scene with a Shepherd and his Flock, the other, Landscape in Suffolk, show us, perhaps, how the English countryside, so much like that of his roots, gave him back the peace and quiet he relished before Vienna and London, and which helped get the creative juices flowing. Reading his English grammar, however, shows us that the industrious side never really went to sleep, it was always there, pushing its way forward.
This mini-Grand Tour will continue next time, but first, a word from our sponsors, Salomon's Friday Night Concerts. During the course of this vacation, Haydn is never far from his quill and paper. After making the contract with Salomon for another year of concerts, he is well-aware of the obligations he has assumed. While we won't be looking in on these works right now, we should be aware that Symphonies No. 93 & 94 are actually being composed right now, during the Autumn of 1791, even though they will not be premiered until 1792. We at Salomon's thank you for your interest and want you to know, we are always working to make your concert experience the best! Next time, back to our tour!
Thanks for reading!