Wolf also began frequently moving house, either searching for cheaper rent or more tranquility. Wolf also developed a group of friends at this time, who took him to concerts and operas, exposing Wolf to culture. They also took him to a brothel, as was the custom at the time, where Wolf contracted syphilis, which would be his downfall.
As time passed, he began writing more songs. His maturity was starting to be hinted at in these songs, but being dismissed from the conservatory, he developed his style by imitating Schumann. The earlier composer’s influence is evident in the song Du bist wie eine Blume. Over the course of 1878, his output would evolve from imitation to his own voice.
Wolf became a critic for the weekly Wiener Salonblatt. He was a harsh critic, earning him enemies over his time with the paper. His writing gives an insight into the musical world of Wolf’s Vienna. The employment brought him some stability, but he still relied on a circle of close friends for his survival.
His song output is still what continued through the years. He wrote with texts from Goethe, Mörike, and translations of Spanish and Italian texts, including by Michelangelo. He also wrote an opera, Der Corregidor, based on a Spanish tragedy. It was a failure upon its premiere. A second opera, Manuel Venegas, was unfinished before his death. His song work however led to the establishment of Wolf Societies in Berlin and Vienna.
In 1897, as signs of his insanity increased, Wolf had himself committed. He blamed his opera’s failure on his friend of 20 years, Gustav Mahler. He was released after four months. After his release he attempted suicide. He was recommitted and died in an asylum on 22 February 1903. He was buried in Vienna’s Central Cemetery near Schubert and Beethoven.