Severe - Wagner said he could never once remember her [his mother] having embraced him - and strongly pious, she was given to leading impromptu family prayer sessions from her bed, dispensing moral precepts to each of her children in turn. She was determined to make a serious young man out of Richard.
All in vain. He was a terrible student, lazy and wilful, refusing to study anything that failed to engage his imagination, which left exactly two subjects: history and literature - ancient Greek history and literature to be precise, with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in. His forte was recitation. At twelve, he made a big success speaking Hector's farewell from the Iliad, followed by "To be or not to be" - in German, of course, both of them: languages, he said, were too much like hard work.
As vibrant as Callow's writing is, I am not getting the warm fuzzies about Wagner as a person. From very early on he seems arrogant, obnoxious, impulsive, and very fond of his own voice and achievements, even their has been little so far to back it up.
I love Callow's writing. He makes the brawls at the opera come to life as much as he makes me cringe at Wagner's early compositions which, when performed, are described as an audiovisual assault at the audiences.
I had to take a break from reading at the point where smarmy Wagner sucks up to Meyerbeer to benefit from his patronage, full of hypocrisy as he made no attempt to overcome or even question his antisemitism.
Not that I get the impression that Wagner ever questioned anything about himself...