For the last twenty-five years of his life, Jean Sibelius composed no music. Sibelius was unsure how to proceed: he was popular with conservative concert-goers and critics, but the progressive avant-garde of Europe largely snubbed him. The beginning of the end was when Sibelius's long-promised Eighth Symphony failed to materialize. In all likelihood, the sketches for this final work went up in smoke in 1945, when the composer used baskets of his manuscripts to start a bonfire. Exacerbating these problems, unfortunately, was Sibelius's lengthy alcoholism. A heavy drinker since his youth, Sibelius had once quit for seven years for medical reasons. He took it up again in 1915, and from then until his death in 1957 he would refer to alcohol as "my most faithful companion."