During the period he created Adelaide, Beethoven was in his mid twenties; he had come to Vienna in 1792 to pursue a career and was in the early stages of making a name for himself as pianist and composer.He had only recently completed his studies with Joseph Haydn. Peter Brown suggests that in writing Adelaide, Beethoven was strongly influenced by Haydn's song O Tuneful Voice (Hob. 1795), written by the elder composer shortly before.
This is a German adaptation of a meter used in ancient Greek and Latin, the Phaelacian hendecasyllable.
The poem clearly struck a chord with Beethoven, whose personal life often centered on his yearnings for idealized and unattainable women. MOST ESTEEMED FRIEND,-- You will receive with this one of my compositions published some years since, and yet, to my shame, you probably have never heard of it.
I cannot attempt to excuse myself, or to explain why I dedicated a work to you which came direct from my heart, but never acquainted you with its existence, unless indeed in this way, that at first I did not know where you lived, and partly also from diffidence, which led me to think I might have been premature in dedicating a work to you before ascertaining that you approved of it.
Indeed, even now I send you "Adelaide" with a feeling of timidity.
You know yourself what changes the lapse of some years brings forth in an artist who continues to make progress; the greater the advances we make in art, the less are we satisfied with our works of an earlier date.
My most ardent wish will be fulfilled if you are not dissatisfied with the manner in which I have set your heavenly "Adelaide" to music, and are incited by it soon to compose a similar poem; and if you do not consider my request too indiscreet, I would ask you to send it to me forthwith, that I may exert all my energies to approach your lovely poetry in merit.