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Recollections Of My Childhood And Youth by George Brandes

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Thus was I tossed backwards and forwards in my reflections.


What I dreaded most was that if I reached a recognition of the truth, a
lack of courage would prevent me decisively making it my own. Courage
was needed, as much to undertake the burdens entailed by being a
Christian as to undertake those entailed by being a Pantheist. When
thinking of Christianity, I drew a sharp distinction between the
cowardice that shrunk from renunciation and the doubt that placed under
discussion the very question as to whether renunciation were duty. And
it was clear to me that, on the road which led to Christianity, doubt
must be overcome before cowardice--not the contrary, as Kierkegaard
maintains in his _For Self-Examination_, where he says that none of
the martyrs doubted.

But my doubt would not be overcome. Kierkegaard had declared that it was
only to the consciousness of sin that Christianity was not horror or
madness. For me it was sometimes both. I concluded therefrom that I had
no consciousness of sin, and found this idea confirmed when I looked
into my own heart. For however violently at this period I reproached
myself and condemned my failings, they were always in my eyes weaknesses
that ought to be combatted, or defects that could be remedied, never
sins that necessitated forgiveness, and for the obtaining of this
forgiveness, a Saviour. That God had died for me as my Saviour,--I could
not understand what it meant; it was an idea that conveyed nothing to

And I wondered whether the inhabitants of another planet would be able
to understand how on the Earth that which was contrary to all reason was
considered the highest truth.


With Pantheism likewise I was on my guard against its being lack of
courage, rather than a conviction of its untruth, which held me back
from embracing it. I thought it a true postulate that everything seemed
permeated and sustained by a Reason that had not human aims in front of
it and did not work by human means, a Divine Reason. Nature could only
be understood from its highest forms; the Ideal, which revealed itself
to the world of men at their highest development, was present, in
possibility and intent, in the first germ, in the mist of primeval
creation, before it divided itself into organic and inorganic elements.
The whole of Nature was in its essence Divine, and I felt myself at
heart a worshipper of Nature.

But this same Nature was indifferent to the weal or woe of humans. It
obeyed its own laws regardless of whether men were lost thereby; it
seemed cruel in its callousness; it took care that the species should be
preserved, but the individual was nothing to it.

Now, like all other European children, I had been brought up in the
theory of personal immortality, a theory which, amongst other things, is
one way of expressing the immense importance, the eternal importance,
which is attributed to each individual. The stronger the feeling of his
own _ego_ that the individual has, the more eagerly he necessarily
clings to the belief that he cannot be annihilated. But to none could
the belief be more precious than to a youth who felt his life pulsate
within, as if he had twenty lives in himself and twenty more to live. It
was impossible to me to realise that I could die, and one evening, about
a year later, I astonished my master, Professor Broechner, by confessing
as much. "Indeed," said Broechner, "are you speaking seriously? You
cannot realise that you will have to die one day? How young! You are
very different from me, who always have death before my eyes."

But although my vitality was so strong that I could not imagine my own
death, I knew well enough that my terrestrial life, like all other
men's, would come to an end. But I felt all the more strongly that it
was impossible everything could be at an end then; death could not be a
termination; it could only, as the religions preached and as eighteenth-
century Deism taught, be a moment of transition to a new and fuller
existence. In reward and punishment after death I could not believe;
those were mediaeval conceptions that I had long outgrown. But the dream
of immortality I could not let go. And I endeavoured to hold it fast by
virtue of the doctrine of the impossibility of anything disappearing.
The quantity of matter always remained the same; energy survived every

Still, I realised that this could not satisfy one, as far as the form
which we term individuality was concerned. What satisfaction was it to
Alexander that his dust should stop a bung-hole? or to Shakespeare that
Romeo and Juliet were acted in Chicago? So I took refuge in parallels
and images. Who could tell whether the soul, which on earth had been
blind to the nature of the other life, did not, in death, undergo the
operation which opened its eyes? Who could tell whether death were not,
as Sibbern had suggested, to be compared with a birth? Just as the
unborn life in its mother's womb would, if it were conscious, believe
that the revolution of birth meant annihilation, whereas it was for the
first time awakening to a new and infinitely richer life, so it was
perhaps for the soul in the dreaded moment of death....

But when I placed before my master these comparisons and the hopes I
built upon them, they were swept away as meaningless; he pointed out
simply that nothing went to prove a continuation of personality after
death, while on the contrary everything argued against it,--and to this
I could not refuse my assent.

Then I understood that in what I called Pantheism, the immortality of
the individual had no place. And a slow, internal struggle commenced for
renunciation of the importance and value of the individual. I had many a
conversation on this point with my teacher, a man tired of life and
thoroughly resigned.

He always maintained that the desire of the individual for a
continuation of personality was nothing but the outcome of vanity. He
would very often put the question in a comical light. He related the
following anecdote: In summer evenings he used to go for a walk along
the Philosopher's Avenue (now West Rampart Street). Here he had
frequently met, sitting on their benches, four or five old gentlemen who
took their evening ramble at the same time; by degrees they made each
other's acquaintance and got into conversation with one another. It
turned out that the old gentlemen were candle-makers who had retired
from business and now had considerable difficulty in passing their time
away. In reality they were always bored, and they yawned incessantly.
These men had one theme only, to which they always recurred with
enthusiasm--their hope in personal immortality for all eternity. And it
amused Broechner that they, who in this life did not know how to kill so
much as one Sunday evening, should be so passionately anxious to have a
whole eternity to fill up. His pupil then caught a glimpse himself of
the grotesqueness of wishing to endure for millions of centuries, which
time even then was nothing in comparison with eternity.


But in spite of it all, it was a hard saying, that in the pantheistic
view of life the absorption of the individual into the great whole took
the place of the continued personal existence which was desired by the
_ego_. But what frightened me even more was that the divine All was
not to be moved or diverted by prayer. But pray I had to. From my
earliest childhood I had been accustomed, in anxiety or necessity, to
turn my thoughts towards a Higher Power, first forming my needs and
wishes into words, and then later, without words, concentrating myself
in worship. It was a need inherited from many hundreds of generations of
forefathers, this need of invoking help and comfort. Nomads of the
plains, Bedouins of the desert, ironclad warriors, pious priests, roving
sailors, travelling merchants, the citizen of the town and the peasant
in the country, all had prayed for centuries, and from the very dawn of
time; the women, the hundreds and hundreds of women from whom I was
descended, had centred all their being in prayer. It was terrible, never
to be able to pray again.... Never to be able to fold one's hands, never
to raise one's eyes above, but to live, shut in overhead, alone in the

If there were no eye in Heaven that watched over the individual, no ear
that understood his plaint, no hand that protected him in danger, then
he was placed, as it were, on a desolate steppe where the wolves were

And in alarm I tried once more the path towards religious quietude that
I had recently deemed impracticable,--until the fight within me calmed
again, and in renunciation I forced my emotion to bow to what my reason
had acknowledged as the Truth.


Julius Lange--A New Master--Inadaption to the Law--The University Prize
Competition--An Interview with the Judges--Meeting of Scandinavian
Students--The Paludan-Muellers--Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson--Magdalene
Thoresen--The Gold Medal--The Death of King Frederik VII--The Political
Situation--My Master of Arts Examination--War--_Admissus cum laude
praecipua_--Academical Attention--Lecturing--Music--Nature--A Walking
Tour--In Print--Philosophical Life in Denmark--Death of Ludwig David--


Among my many good comrades, there was one, Julius Lange, with whom
comradeship had developed into friendship, and this friendship again
assumed a passionate character. We were the two, who, of them all, were
most exactly suited to one another, completed one another. Fundamentally
different though we were, we could always teach each other something. We
grew indispensable to one another; for years there seldom a day went by
that we did not meet. The association with his junior cannot possibly
have given Julius Lange a delight corresponding to that which his
society gave me. Intellectually equal, we were of temperaments
diametrically opposed. Having the same love of Art and the same
enthusiasm for Art,--save that the one cared more for its pictorial and
the other for its literary expression,--we were of mutual assistance to
one another in the interchange of thoughts and information. Entirely at
variance in our attitude towards religious tradition, in our frequent
collisions we were both perpetually being challenged to a critical
inspection of our intellectual furniture. But I was the one who did the

When Julius Lange, on December 17, 1861, after having twice been to see
me and found me out, the third time met with me and informed me: "I have
received an invitation to go to Italy on Saturday and be away five
months," was, though surprised, exceedingly glad for my friend's sake,
but at the same time I felt as if I had received a blow in the face.
What would become of me, not only during the interval, but afterwards?
Who could say whether Lange would ever come back, or whether he would
not come back changed? How should I be able to endure my life! I should
have to work tremendously hard, to be able to bear the loss of him. I
could hardly understand how I should be able to exist when I could no
longer, evening after evening, slip up to my friend's little room to sit
there in calm, quiet contentment, seeing pictures and exchanging
thoughts! It was as though a nerve had been cut. I only then realised
that I had never loved any man so much. I had had four eyes; now I had
only two again; I had had two brains; now I had only one; in my heart I
had felt the happiness of two human beings; now only the melancholy of
one was left behind.

There was not a painting, a drawing, a statue or a bas-relief in the
galleries and museums of Copenhagen that we had not studied together and
compared our impressions of. We had been to Thorwaldsen's Museum
together, we went together to Bissen's studio, where in November, 1861,
I met for the first time my subsequent friends, Vilhelm Bissen and
Walter Runeberg. The memory of Julius Lange was associated in my mind
with every picture of Hobbema, Dubbels or Ruysdael, Rembrandt or Rubens,
every reproduction of Italian Renaissance art, every photograph of
church or castle. And I myself loved pictures even more ardently than
poetry. I was fond of comparing my relations with literature to
affection for a being of the same sex; my passion for pictures to the
stormy passion of a youth for a woman. It is true that I knew much less
about Art than about Poetry, but that made no difference. I worshipped
my favourite artists with a more impetuous enthusiasm than any of my
favourite authors. And this affection for pictures and statuary was a
link between my friend and myself. When we were sitting in my room
together, and another visitor happened to be there, I positively
suffered over the sacrifice of an hour's enjoyment and when Lange got up
to go, I felt as though a window had been slammed to, and the fresh air
shut out.


I had for a long time pursued my non-juridic studies as well as I could
without the assistance of a teacher. But I had felt the want of one. And
when a newly appointed docent at the University, Professor H. Broechner,
offered instruction in the study of Philosophy to any who cared to
present themselves at his house at certain hours, I had felt strongly
tempted to take advantage of his offer. I hesitated for some time, for I
was unwilling to give up the least portion of my precious freedom; I
enjoyed my retirement, the mystery of my modest life of study, but on
the other hand I could not grapple with Plato and Aristotle without the
hints of a competent guide as to the why and wherefore.

I was greatly excited. I had heard Professor Broechner speak on
Psychology, but his diction was handled with such painful care, was so
monotonous and sounded so strange, that it could not fail to alarm. It
was only the professor's distinguished and handsome face that attracted
me, and in particular his large, sorrowful eyes, with their beautiful
expression, in which one read a life of deep research--and tears. Now, I
determined to venture up to Broechner. But I had not the courage to
mention it to my mother beforehand, for fear speaking of it should
frighten me from my resolution, so uneasy did I feel about the step I
was taking. When the day which I had fixed upon for the attempt arrived
--it was the 2nd of September, 1861,--I walked up and down in front of
the house several times before I could make up my mind to go upstairs; I
tried to calculate beforehand what the professor would say, and what it
would be best for me to reply, interminably.

The tall, handsome man with the appearance of a Spanish knight, opened
the door himself and received the young fellow who was soon to become
his most intimate pupil, very kindly. To my amazement, as soon as he
heard my name, he knew which school I had come from and also that I had
recently become a student. He vigorously dissuaded me from going through
a course of Plato and Aristotle, saying it would be too great a strain--
said, or implied, that I should be spared the difficult path he had
himself traversed, and sketched out a plan of study of more modern
Philosophy and Aesthetics. His manner inspired confidence and left
behind it the main impression that he wished to save the beginner all
useless exertion. All the same, with my youthful energy, I felt, as I
went home, a shade disappointed that I was not to begin the History of
Philosophy from the beginning.

My visit was soon repeated, and a most affectionate intimacy quickly
sprang up between master and pupil, revealed on the side of the elder,
in an attitude of fatherly goodwill to which the younger had hitherto
been a stranger, the teacher, while instructing his pupil and giving him
practical guidance, constantly keeping in view all that could further
his well-being and assist his future; my attitude was one of reverence
and affection, and of profound gratitude for the care of which I was the

I certainly, sometimes, in face of my master's great thoroughness and
his skill in wrestling with the most difficult thoughts, felt a painful
distrust of my own capacity and of my own intellectual powers, compared
with his. I was also not infrequently vexed by a discordant note, as it
were, being struck in our intercourse, when Broechner, despite the doubts
and objections I brought forward, always took it for granted that I
shared his pantheistic opinions, without perceiving that I was still
tossed about by doubts, and fumbling after a firm foothold. But the
confidential terms upon which I was with the maturer man had an
attraction for me which my intimacy with undecided and youthfully
prejudiced comrades necessarily lacked; he had the experience of a
lifetime behind him, he looked down from superior heights on the
sympathies and antipathies of a young man.

To me, for instance, Ploug's _The Fatherland_ was at that time
Denmark's most intellectual organ, whereas Bille's _Daily Paper_
disgusted me, more particularly on account of the superficiality and the
tone of finality which distinguished its literary criticisms. Broechner,
who, with not unmixed benevolence, and without making any special
distinction between the two, looked down on both these papers of the
educated mediocrity, saw in his young pupil's bitterness against the
trivial but useful little daily, only an indication of the quality of
his mind. Broechner's mere manner, as he remarked one day with a smile,
"You do not read _The Daily Paper_ on principle," made me perceive
in a flash the comicality of my indignation over such articles as it
contained. My horizon was still sufficiently circumscribed for me to
suppose that the state of affairs in Copenhagen was, in and of itself,
of importance. I myself regarded my horizon as wide. One day, when
making a mental valuation of myself, I wrote, with the naivete of
nineteen, "My good qualities, those which will constitute my
personality, if I ever become of any account, are a mighty and ardent
enthusiasm, a thorough authority in the service of Truth, _a wide
horizon_ and philosophically trained thinking powers. These must make
up for my lack of humour and facility."

It was only several years after the beginning of our acquaintance that I
felt myself in essential agreement with Hans Broechner. I had been
enraptured by a study of Ludwig Feuerbach's books, for Feuerbach was the
first thinker in whose writings I found the origin of the idea of God in
the human mind satisfactorily explained. In Feuerbach, too, I found a
presentment of ideas without circumlocution and without the usual heavy
formulas of German philosophy, a conquering clarity, which had a very
salutary effect on my own way of thinking and gave me a feeling of
security. If for many years I had been feeling myself more conservative
than my friend and master, there now came a time when in many ways I
felt myself to be more liberal than he, with his mysterious life in the
eternal realm of mind of which he felt himself to be a link.


I had not been studying Jurisprudence much more than a year before it
began to weigh very heavily upon me. The mere sight of the long rows of
_Schou's Ordinances_, which filled the whole of the back of my
writing-table, were a daily source of vexation. I often felt that I
should not be happy until the Ordinances were swept from my table. And
the lectures were always so dreary that they positively made me think of
suicide--and I so thirsty of life!--as a final means of escape from the
torment of them. I felt myself so little adapted to the Law that I
wasted my time with Hamlet-like cogitations as to how I could give up
the study without provoking my parents' displeasure, and without
stripping myself of all prospects for the future. And for quite a year
these broodings grew, till they became a perfect nightmare to me.

I had taken a great deal of work upon myself; I gave lessons every day,
that I might have a little money coming in, took lessons myself in
several subjects, and not infrequently plunged into philosophical works
of the past, that were too difficult for me, such as the principal works
of Kant. Consequently when I was nineteen, I begun to feel my strength
going. I felt unwell, grew nervous, had a feeling that I could not draw
a deep breath, and when I was twenty my physical condition was a violent
protest against overwork. One day, while reading Kant's _Kritik der
Urteilskraft_, I felt so weak that I was obliged to go to the doctor.
The latter recommended physical exercises and cold shower-baths.

The baths did me good, and I grew so accustomed to them that I went on
taking them and have done so ever since. I did my gymnastic exercises
with a Swede named Nycander, who had opened an establishment for Swedish
gymnastics in Copenhagen.

There I met, amongst others, the well-known Icelandic poet and
diplomatist, Grimur Thomsen, who bore the title of Counsellor of
Legation. His compatriots were very proud of him. Icelandic students
declared that Grimur possessed twelve dress shirts, three pairs of
patent leather boots, and had embraced a marchioness in Paris. At
gymnastics, Grimur Thomsen showed himself audacious and not seldom
coarse in what he said and hinted. It is true that by reason of my youth
I was very susceptible and took offence at things that an older man
would have heard without annoyance.


I continued to be physically far from strong. Mentally, I worked
indefatigably. The means of deciding the study question that, after long
reflection, seemed to me most expedient, was this: I would compete for
one of the University prizes, either the aesthetic or the philosophical,
and then, if I won the gold medal, my parents and others would see that
if I broke with the Law it was not from idleness, but because I really
had talents in another direction.

As early as 1860 I had cast longing eyes at the prize questions that had
been set, and which hung up in the Entrance Hall of the University. But
none of them were suited to me. In 1861 I made up my mind to attempt a
reply, even if the questions in themselves should not be attractive.

There was amongst them one on the proper correlation between poetic
fiction and history in the historical romances. The theme in itself did
not particularly fascinate me; but I was not ignorant of the subject,
and it was one that allowed of being looked at in a wide connection,
i.e., the claims of the subject as opposed to the imagination of the
artist, in general. I was of opinion that just as in sculpture the human
figure should not be represented with wings, but the conception of its
species be observed, so the essential nature of a past age should be
unassailed in historic fiction. Throughout numerous carefully elaborated
abstractions, extending over 120 folio pages, and in which I aimed at
scientific perspicuity, I endeavoured to give a soundly supported theory
of the limits of inventive freedom in Historical Romance. The
substructure was so painstaking that it absorbed more than half of the
treatise. Quite apart from the other defects of this tyro handiwork, it
lauded and extolled an aesthetic direction opposed to that of both the
men who were to adjudicate upon it. Hegel was mentioned in it as "The
supreme exponent of Aesthetics, a man whose imposing greatness it is
good to bow before." I likewise held with his emancipated pupil, Fr. Th.
Vischer, and vindicated him. Of Danish thinkers, J.L. Heiberg and S.
Kierkegaard were almost the only ones discussed.

Heiberg was certainly incessantly criticised, but was treated with
profound reverence and as a man whose slightest utterance was of
importance. Sibbern's artistic and philosophical researches, on the
other hand, were quite overlooked, indeed sometimes Vischer was praised
as being the first originator of psychological developments, which
Sibbern had suggested many years before him. I had, for that matter,
made a very far from sufficient study of Sibbern's researches, which
were, partly, not systematic enough for me, and partly had repelled me
by the peculiar language in which they were couched.

Neither was it likely that this worship of Heiberg, which undeniably
peeped out through all the proofs of imperfections and self-
contradictions in him, would appeal to Hauch.

When I add that the work was youthfully doctrinaire, in language not
fresh, and that in its skeleton-like thinness it positively tottered
under the weight of its definitions, it is no wonder that it did not win
the prize. The verdict passed upon it was to the effect that the
treatise was thorough in its way, and that it would have been awarded
the prize had the question asked been that of determining the
correlation between History and Fiction in general, but that under the
circumstances it dwelt too cursorily on Romance and was only deemed
deserving of "a very honourable mention."

Favourable as this result was, it was nevertheless a blow to me, who had
made my plans for the following years dependent on whether I won the
prize or not. Julius Lange, who knocked at my door one evening to tell
me the result, was the witness of my disappointment. "I can understand,"
he said, "that you should exclaim: _'Oleum et operam perdidi!'_,
but you must not give up hope for so little. It is a good thing that you
prohibited the opening of the paper giving your name in the event of the
paper not winning the prize, for no one will trouble their heads about
the flattering criticism and an honourable mention would only harm you
in People's eyes; it would stamp you with the mark of mediocrity."


The anonymous recipient of the honourable mention nevertheless
determined to call upon his judges, make their acquaintance, and let
them know who he was.

I went first to Hauch, who resided at that time at Frederiksberg Castle,
in light and lofty rooms. Hauch appeared exaggeratedly obliging, the old
man of seventy and over paying me, young man as I was, one compliment
after the other. The treatise was "extraordinarily good," they had been
very sorry not to give me the prize; but I was not to bear them any ill-
will for that; they had acted as their consciences dictated. In eighteen
months I should be ready to take my Magister examination; the old poet
thought he might venture to prophesy that I should do well. He was
surprised at his visitor's youth, could hardly understand how at my age
I could have read and thought so much, and gave me advice as to the
continuation of my studies.

Sibbern was as cordial as Hauch had been polite and cautious. It was
very funny that, whereas Hauch remarked that he himself had wished to
give me the prize with an _although_ in the criticism, but that
Sibbern had been against it, Sibbern declared exactly the reverse; in
spite of all its faults he had wanted to award the medal, but Hauch had
expressed himself adverse. Apparently they had misunderstood one
another; but in any case the result was just, so there was nothing to
complain of.

Sibbern went into the details of the treatise, and was stricter than
Hauch. He regretted that the main section of the argument was deficient;
the premises were too prolix. He advised a more historic, less
philosophical study of Literature and Art. He was pleased to hear of the
intimate terms I was on with Broechner, whereas Hauch would have
preferred my being associated with Rasmus Nielsen, whom he jestingly
designated "a regular brown-bread nature." When the treatise was given
back to me, I found it full of apt and instructive marginal notes from
Sibbern's hand.

Little as I had gained by my unsuccessful attempt to win this prize, and
unequivocally as my conversation with the practical Sibbern had proved
to me that a post as master in my mother tongue at a Grammar-school was
all that the Magister degree in Aesthetics was likely to bring me,
whereas from my childhood I had made up my mind that I would never be a
master in a school, this conversation nevertheless ripened my
determination to give up my law studies, but of course only when by
successfully competing for the prize the next year I had satisfactorily
proved my still questionable ability.


The Meeting of Scandinavian students at Copenhagen in June, 1862, taught
me what it meant to be a Scandinavian. Like all the other
undergraduates, I was Scandinavian at heart, and the arrangements of the
Meeting were well calculated to stir the emotions of youth. Although, an
insignificant Danish student, I did not take part in the expedition to
North Zealand specially arranged for our guests, consequently neither
was present at the luncheon given by Frederik VII to the students at
Fredensborg (which was interrupted by a heavy shower), I was
nevertheless deeply impressed by the Meeting.

It was a fine sight to behold the students from the three other
Scandinavian Universities come sailing across the Sound from Malmoe to
Copenhagen. The Norwegians were especially striking, tall and straight,
with narrow faces under tasseled caps, like a wood of young fir trees;
the national type was so marked that at first I could hardly see any
difference between them.

For me, there were three perfect moments during the festivities. The
first was at the meeting of all the students in the Square of Our Lady,
after the arrival of the visitors, when the scholars of the Metropolitan
School, crowding the windows of the building, greeted them with a shout
of delight. There was such a freshness, such a childish enthusiasm about
it, that some of us had wet eyes. It was as though the still distant
future were acclaiming the young ones now advancing to the assault, and
promising them sympathy and conquest.

The second was when the four new flags embroidered by Danish ladies for
the students were consecrated and handed over. Clausen's speech was full
of grandeur, and addressed, not to the recipients, but to the flags as
living beings: "Thou wilt cross the Baltic to the sanctuary at Upsala.
Thou wilt cross the Cattegat to the land of rocks...." and the address
to each of the flags concluded: "Fortune and Honour attend thee!" The
evening after the consecration of the flags, there was a special
performance at the Royal Theatre for the members of the Meeting, at
which Heiberg, radiant as she always was, and saluted with well-merited
enthusiasm, played _Sophie_ in the vaudeville "_No_," with a
rosette of the Scandinavian colours at her waist. Then it was that
Paludan-Mueller's prologue, recited by our idolised actor, Michael Wiehe,
caused me the third thrilling moment. Listening to the words of the poet
from a bad place in the gallery, I was hardly the only one who felt
strangely stirred, as Wiehe, letting his eyes roam round the theatre,

Oh! that the young of the North might one day worthily play
Their part! Oh that each one might do his best
For the party he has chosen! That never there be lack
Of industry, fidelity, strength and talents!
And may he firm step forth, the mighty genius
(_Mayhap, known only to the secret power within him,
Seated amongst us now_), the mighty genius,
Who, as Fate hath willed it, is to play
The mighty part and do the mighty things.

Involuntarily we looked round, seeking for the one to whom the poet's
summons referred.

The general spirit of this Meeting has been called flat in comparison
with that pervading former meetings. It did not strike the younger
participants so. A breath of Scandinavianism swept over every heart; one
felt borne along on a historic stream. It seemed like a bad dream that
the peoples of the North had for so many centuries demolished and laid
waste each other, tapped one another for blood and gold, rendered it
impossible for the North to assert herself and spread her influence in

One could feel at the Meeting, though very faintly, that the Swedes and
Norwegians took more actual pleasure in each other, and regarded
themselves as to a greater extent united than either of them looked upon
themselves as united with the Danes, who were outside the political
Union. I was perhaps the only Dane present who fancied I detected this,
but when I mentioned what I thought I observed to a gifted young
Norwegian, so far was he from contradicting me that he merely replied:
"Have you noticed that, too?"

Notwithstanding, during the whole of the Meeting, one constantly heard
expressed on every hand the conviction that if Germany were shortly to
declare war against Denmark--which no one doubted--the Swedes and
Norwegians would most decidedly not leave the Danes in the lurch. The
promise was given oftener than it was asked. Only, of course, it was
childish on the part of those present at the Meeting to regard such
promises, given by the leaders of the students, and by the students
themselves in festive mood, as binding on the nations and their

I did not make any intellectually inspiring acquaintances through the
Meeting, although I was host to two Upsala students; neither of them,
however, interested me. I got upon a friendly footing through mutual
intellectual interests with Carl von Bergen, later so well known as an
author, he, like myself, worshipping philosophy and hoping to contribute
to intellectual progress. Carl von Bergen was a self-confident,
ceremonious Swede, who had read a great many books. At that time he was
a new Rationalist, which seemed to promise one point of interest in
common; but he was a follower of the Bostroem philosophy, and as such an
ardent Theist. At this point we came into collision, my researches and
reflections constantly tending to remove me farther from a belief in any
God outside the world, so that after the Meeting Carl von Bergen and I
exchanged letters on Theism and Pantheism, which assumed the width and
thickness of treatises. For very many years the Swedish essayist and I
kept up a friendly, though intermittent intercourse. Meanwhile von
Bergen, whose good qualities included neither character nor originality,
inclined, as years went on, more and more towards Conservatism, and at
forty years old he had attained to a worship of what he had detested,
and a detestation of what he had worshipped. His vanity simultaneously
assumed extraordinary proportions. In a popular Encyclopaedia, which he
took over when the letter B was to be dealt with, and, curiously enough,
disposed of shortly afterwards, _von Bergen_ was treated no less in
detail than _Buonaparte_. He did battle with some of the best men
and women in Sweden, such as Ellen Key and Knut Wicksell, who did not
fail to reply to him. When in 1889 his old friend from the Students'
Meeting gave some lectures on Goethe in Stockholm, he immediately
afterwards directed some poor opposition lectures against him, which
neither deserved nor received any reply. It had indeed become a
specialty of his to give "opposition lectures." When he died, some few
years later, what he had written was promptly forgotten.

There was another young Swedish student whom I caught a glimpse of for
the first time at the Students' Meeting, towards whom I felt more and
more attracted, and who eventually became my friend. This was the
darling of the gods, Carl Snoilsky. At a fete in Rosenborg Park, amongst
the songs was one which, with my critical scent, I made a note of. It
was by the then quite unknown young Count Snoilsky, and it was far from
possessing the rare qualities, both of pith and form, that later
distinguished his poetry; but it was a poet's handiwork, a troubadour
song to the Danish woman, meltingly sweet, and the writer of it was a
youth of aristocratic bearing, regular, handsome features, and smooth
brown hair, a regular Adonis. The following year he came again, drawn by
strong cords to Christian Winther's home, loving the old poet like a
son, as Swinburne loved Victor Hugo, sitting at Mistress Julie Winther's
feet in affectionate admiration and semi-adoration, although she was
half a century old and treated him as a mother does a favourite child.

It was several years, however, before there was any actual friendship
between the Swedish poet and myself. He called upon me one day in my
room in Copenhagen, looking exceedingly handsome in a tight-fitting
waistcoat of blue quilted silk. In the absence of the Swedo-Norwegian
Ambassador, he was Charge d'Affaires in Copenhagen, after, in his
capacity as diplomatic attache, having been stationed in various parts
of the world and, amongst others, for some time in Paris. He could have
no warmer admirer of his first songs than myself, and we very frequently
spent our evenings together in Bauer's wine room--talking over
everything in Scandinavian, English, or French literature which both of
us had enthusiastically and critically read. On many points our verdicts
were agreed.

There came a pause in Snoilsky's productive activity; he was depressed.
It was generally said, although it sounded improbable, that he had had
to promise his wife's relations to give up publishing verse, they
regarding it as unfitting the dignity of a noble. In any case, he was at
that time suffering under a marriage that meant to him the deprivation
of the freedom without which it was impossible to write. Still, he never
mentioned these strictly personal matters. But one evening that we were
together, Snoilsky was so overcome by the thought of his lack of freedom
that tears suddenly began to run down his cheeks. He was almost
incapable of controlling himself again, and when we went home together
late at night, poured out a stream of melancholy, half-despairing

A good eighteen months later we met again in Stockholm; Snoilsky was
dignified and collected. But when, a few years later, so-called public
opinion in Sweden began to rave against the poet for the passion for his
second wife which so long made him an exile from his country, I often
thought of that evening.

As years passed by, his outward bearing became more and more reserved
and a trifle stiff, but he was the same at heart, and no one who had
known him in the heyday of his youth could cease to love him.


A month after the Students' Meeting, at the invitation of my friend Jens
Paludan-Mueller, I spent a few weeks at his home at Nykjoebing, in the
island of Falster, where his father, Caspar Paludan-Mueller, the
historian, was at the time head master of the Grammar-school. Those were
rich and beautiful weeks, which I always remembered later with

The stern old father with his leonine head and huge eyebrows impressed
one by his earnestness and perspicacity, somewhat shut off from the
world as he was by hereditary deafness. The dignified mistress of the
house likewise belonged to a family that had made its name known in
Danish literature. She was a Rosenstand-Goeiske. Jens was a cordial and
attentive host, the daughters were all of them women out of the
ordinary, and bore the impress of belonging to a family of the highest
culture in the country; the eldest was womanly and refined, the second,
with her Roman type of beauty and bronze-coloured head, lovely in a
manner peculiarly her own; the youngest, as yet, was merely an amiable
young girl. The girls would have liked to get away from the monotony of
provincial life, and their release came when their father was appointed
to a professorship at Copenhagen University. There was an ease of manner
and a tone of mental distinction pervading the whole family. Two young,
handsome Counts Reventlow were being brought up in the house, still only
half-grown boys at that time, but who were destined later to win
honourable renown. One of them, the editor of his ancestress's papers,
kept up his acquaintance with the guest he had met in the Paludan-Mueller
home for over forty years.

There often came to the house a young Dane from Caracas in Venezuela, of
unusual, almost feminine beauty, with eyes to haunt one's dreams. He
played uncommonly well, was irresistibly gentle and emotional. After a
stay of a few years in Denmark he returned to his native place. The
previously mentioned Groenbeck, with his pretty sister, and other young
people from the town, were frequent guests during the holidays, and the
days passed in games, music, wanderings about the garden, and delightful
excursions to the woods.

On every side I encountered beauty of some description. I said to Jens
one day: "One kind of beauty is the glow which the sun of Youth casts
over the figure, and it vanishes as soon as the sun sets. Another is
stamped into shape from within; it is Mind's expression, and will remain
as long as the mind remains vigorous. But the supremest beauty of all is
in the unison of the two harmonies, which are contending for existence.
In the bridal night of this supremest beauty, Mind and Nature melt into

A few years later the old historian was called upon to publish the
little book on Gulland, with its short biography prefixed, as a memorial
to his only son, fallen at Sankelmark, and again, a few years later, to
edit Frederik Nutzhorn's translation of Apuleius in memory of his son's
friend, his elder daughter's fiance. During the preparation of these two
little books, our relations became more intimate, and our friendship
continued unbroken until in the month of February, 1872, a remark in one
of my defensive articles caused him to take up his pen against me. My
remark was to the effect that there were men of the same opinions as
myself even among the priests of the established church. Caspar Paludan-
Mueller declared it my public duty to mention of whom I was thinking at
the time, since such a traitor was not to be tolerated in the lap of the
Church. As I very naturally did not wish to play the part of informer, I
incurred, by my silence, the suspicion of having spoken without
foundation. The Danish man whom I had in my thoughts, and who had
confided his opinions to me, was still alive at the time. This was the
late Dean Ussing, at one time priest at Mariager, a man of an
extraordinarily refined and amiable disposition, secretly a convinced
adherent of Ernest Renan. A Norwegian priest, who holds the same
opinions, is still living.


In August, 1863, on a walking tour through North Sjaelland, Julius Lange
introduced me to his other celebrated uncle, Frederik Paludan-Mueller,
whose Summer residence was at Fredensborg. In appearance he was of a
very different type from his brother Caspar. The distinguishing mark of
the one was power, of the other, nobility. For Frederik Paludan-Mueller
as a poet I cherished the profoundest admiration. He belonged to the
really great figures of Danish literature, and his works had so fed and
formed my inmost nature that I should scarcely be the same had I not
read them. It was unalloyed happiness to have access to his house and be
allowed to enjoy his company. It was a distinction to be one of the few
he vouchsafed to take notice of and one of the fewer still in whose
future he interested himself. Do the young men of Denmark to-day, I
wonder, admire creative intellects as they were admired by some few of
us then? It is in so far hardly possible, since there is not at the
present time any Northern artist with such a hall-mark of refined
delicacy as Frederik Paludan-Mueller possessed.

The young people who came to his house might have wished him a younger,
handsomer wife, and thought his choice, Mistress Charite, as, curiously
enough, she was called, not quite worthy of the poet. Unjustly so, since
he himself was perfectly satisfied with her, and was apparently wholly
absorbed by a union which had had its share in isolating him from the
world. His wife was even more theologically inclined than himself, and
appeared anonymously--without anyone having a suspicion of the fact--as
a religious authoress. Still, she was exceedingly kind to anyone,
regardless of their private opinions, who had found favour in the poet's

The dry little old lady was the only one of her sex with whom Paludan-
Mueller was intimate. He regarded all other women, however young and
beautiful, as mere works of art. But his delight in them was charming in
him, just because of its freedom from sense. One evening that he was
giving a little banquet in honour of a Swedish lady painter, named
Ribbing, a woman of rare beauty, he asked her to stand by the side of
the bust of the Venus of Milo, that the resemblance, which really
existed between them, might be apparent. His innocent, enthusiastic
delight in the likeness was most winning.


Two other celebrated personages whom I met for the first time a little
later were Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson and Magdalene Thoresen.

I became acquainted with Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson at the Nutzhorns, their
son, Ditlev, being a passionate admirer of his. His _King Sverre_
of 1861 had been a disappointment, but _Sigurd Slembe_ of the
following year was new and great poetry, and fascinated young people's
minds. Bjoernson, socially, as in literature, was a strong figure, self-
confident, loud-voiced, outspoken, unique in all that he said, and in
the weight which he knew how to impart to all his utterances. His manner
jarred a little on the more subdued Copenhagen style; the impression he
produced was that of a great, broad-shouldered, and very much spoilt
child. In the press, all that he wrote and did was blazoned abroad by
the leading critics of the day, who had a peculiar, challenging way of
praising Bjoernson, although his ability was not seriously disputed by
anyone. The National Liberal Leaders, Alfred Hage, Carl Ploug, etc., had
opened their hearts and houses to him. It is said that at one time
Heiberg had held back; the well-bred old man, a little shocked by the
somewhat noisy ways of the young genius, is said to have expressed to
his friend Krieger some scruples at inviting him to his house. To
Krieger's jesting remark: "What does it matter! He is a young man; let
him rub off his corners!" Heiberg is credited with having replied: "Very
true! Let him! but not in my drawing-room! That is not a place where
people may rub anything off." Heiberg's wife, on the other hand, admired
him exceedingly, and was undoubtedly very much fascinated by him.

In a circle of younger people, Bjoernson was a better talker than
conversationalist. Sometimes he came out with decidedly rash expressions
of opinion, conclusively dismissing a question, for instance, with
severe verdicts over Danish music, Heyse's excepted, judgments which
were not supported by sufficient knowledge of the subject at issue. But
much of what he said revealed the intellectual ruler, whose self-
confidence might now and again irritate, but at bottom was justified. He
narrated exceptionally well, with picturesque adjectives, long
remembered in correct Copenhagen, spoke of the _yellow_ howl of
wolves, and the like. Take it all in all, his attitude was that of a

He upheld poetry that was actual and palpable, consequently had little
appreciation for poetry, that, like Paludan-Mueller's, was the perfection
of thought and form, and boldly disapproved of my admiration for it.


It was likewise through Frederik Nutzhorn that I, when a young beginner
in the difficult art of life, became acquainted with Madame Magdalene
Thoresen. Our first conversation took place in the open air one Summer
day, at the Klampenborg bathing establishment. Although Magdalene
Thoresen was at that time at least forty-six years old, her warm,
brownish complexion could well stand inspection in the strongest light.
Her head, with its heavy dark hair, was Southern in its beauty, her
mouth as fresh as a young girl's; she had brilliant and very striking
eyes. Her figure was inclined to be corpulent, her walk a trifle heavy,
her bearing and movements full of youth and life.

She was remarkably communicative, open and warmhearted, with a
propensity towards considerable extravagance of speech. Originally
incited thereto by Bjoernson's peasant stories, she had then published
her first tales, _The Student and Signe's Story_, which belonged,
half to Norwegian, half to Danish literature, and had been well
received. She was the daughter of a fisherman at Fredericia, and after
having known both the buffets and the smiles of Fortune, had come to be
on terms of friendship with many men and women of importance, now
belonging to the recognised personalities of the day. She was also very
well received and much appreciated in the Heiberg circle.

In comparison with her, a woman, I might have been called erudite and
well-informed. Her own knowledge was very desultory. She was interested
in me on account of my youth, and her warm interest attached me to her
for the next five years,--as long, that is, as she remained in Denmark.
She very soon began to confide in me, and although she scarcely did so
unreservedly, still, no woman, at least no mature and gifted woman, had
told me so much about herself before. She was a woman who had felt
strongly and thought much; she had lived a rich, and eventful life; but
all that had befallen her she romanticised. Her poetic tendency was
towards the sublime. She was absolutely veracious, and did not really
mean to adorn her tales, but partly from pride, partly from
whimsicality, she saw everything, from greatest to least, through
beautifully coloured magnifying-glasses, so that a translation of her
communications into every-day language became a very difficult matter,
and when an every-day occurrence was suspected through the narrative,
the same could not be reproduced in an every-day light, and according to
an every-day standard, without wounding the narrator to the quick. For
these reasons I never ventured to include among my Collected Essays a
little biographical sketch of her (written just as she herself had
idealised its events to me), one of the first articles I had printed.

She saw strong natures, rich and deep natures, in lives that were meagre
or unsuccessful. Again, from lack of perspicacity, she sometimes saw
nothing but inefficiency in people with wide intellectual gifts; thus,
she considered that her son-in-law, Henrik Ibsen, who at that time had
not become either known or celebrated, had very imperfect poetic gifts.
"What he writes is as flat as a drawing," she would say. Or she would
remark: "He ought to be more than a collaborator of Kierkegaard." It was
only much later that she discovered his genius. Bjoernson, on the other
hand, she worshipped with an enthusiastic love; it was a trouble to her
that just about this time he had become very cool to her.

Vague feelings did not repel her, but all keen and pointed intelligence
did. She was wholly and entirely romantic. Gallicism she objected to;
the clarity of the French seemed to her superficial; she saw depth in
the reserved and taciturn Northern, particularly the Norwegian, nature.
She had groped her way forward for a long time without realising what
her gifts really were. Her husband, who had done all he could to assist
her education, had even for a time imagined, and perhaps persuaded her,
that her gifts lay in the direction of Baggesen's. Now, however, she had
found her vocation and her path in literature.

On all questions of thought, pure and simple, she was extremely vague.
She was a Christian and a Heathen with equal sincerity, a Christian with
her overflowing warm-heartedness, with her honest inclination to
believe, a Heathen in her averseness to any negation of either life or
Nature. She used to say that she loved Christ and Eros equally, or
rather, that to her, they both meant the same. To her, Christianity was
the new, the modern, in contrast to the rationalism of a past age, so
that Christianity and modern views of life in general merged in her eyes
into one unity.

Hers was a deeply feminine nature, and a productive nature. Her fertile
character was free from all taint of over-estimation of herself. She
only revealed a healthy and pleasing self-satisfaction when she imagined
that some person wished to set up himself or herself over her and
misjudge acts or events in her life with respect to which she considered
herself the only person qualified to judge. At such times she would
declare in strong terms that by her own unassisted strength she had
raised herself from a mean and unprotected position to the level of the
best men and women of her day. Herself overflowing with emotion, and of
a noble disposition, she craved affection and goodwill, and gave back a
hundredfold what she received. If she felt herself the object of cold
and piercing observation, she would be silent and unhappy, but if she
herself were at ease and encountered no coolness, she was all geniality
and enthusiasm, though not to such an extent that her enthusiasm ceased
to be critical.

She could over-value and under-value people, but was at the same time a
keen, in fact a marvellous psychologist, and sometimes astonished one by
the pertinent things she said, surprising one by her accurate estimate
of difficult psychological cases. For instance, she understood as few
others did the great artist, the clever coquette, and the old maid in
Heiberg's wife, the actress.

She had no moral prejudices, and had written _Signe's Story_ as a
protest against conventional morality; but she was none the less
thoroughly permeated by Christian and humane ideas of morality, and
there was no element of rebellion in her disposition.

On the whole, she was more a woman than an authoress. Her nature was
tropical in comparison with Mrs. Charite Paludan-Mueller's North Pole
nature. She lived, not in a world of ideas remote from reality, but in a
world of feeling and passion, full of affection and admiration, jealousy
and dislike. Being a woman, she was happy at every expression of
pleasure over one of her books that she heard or read of, and liked to
fancy that the solitary young man who sent her an enthusiastic letter of
thanks was only one of hundreds who thought as he did. Like a woman,
also, she was hurt by indifference, which, however, her warm heart
rarely encountered.

This richly endowed woman made me appear quite new to myself, inasmuch
as, in conversations with my almost maternal friend, I began to think I
was of a somewhat cold nature, a nature which in comparison with hers
seemed rather dry, unproductive and unimaginative, a creature with
thoughts ground keen.

Magdalene Thoresen compared me one day to an unlighted glass candelabra,
hanging amid several others all lighted up, which had the gleam of the
fire on the countless facets of its crystals, but was itself nothing but
cold, smooth, polished, prisms.

Thus during my association with Magdalene Thoresen I came to regard
myself in a new light, when I saw myself with her eyes, and I was struck
more than ever by how different the verdicts over me would be were my
various friends and acquaintances each to describe me is I appeared to
them. To Magdalene Thoresen I was all mind, to others all passion, to
others again all will. At the Nutzhorns' I went by the name of the
modest B., elsewhere I was deemed conceitedly ambitious, some people
thought me of a mild temper, others saw in me a quarrelsome unbeliever.

All this was a challenge to me to come to a clear understanding about my
real nature. The fruits of my work must show me what sort of man I was.


I continued my legal studies with patient persistence, and gradually,
after having made myself master of Civil Proceedings, I worked my way
through the whole of the juridic system, Roman Law excluded. But the
industry devoted to this was purely mechanical. I pursued my other
studies, on the contrary, with delight, even tried to produce something
myself, and during the last months of 1862 elaborated a very long paper
on _Romeo and Juliet_, chiefly concerning itself with the
fundamental problems of the tragedy, as interpreted in the Aesthetics of
the day; it has been lost, like so much else that I wrote during those
years. I sent it to Professor Broechner and asked his opinion of it.

Simultaneously I began to work upon a paper on the Idea of Fate in Greek
Tragedy, a response to the Prize question of the year 1862-1863, and on
December 31, 1862, had finished the Introduction, which was published
for the first time about six years later, under the title _The Idea of
Tragic Fate_. Appended to this was a laborious piece of work dealing
with the conceptions of Fate recorded in all the Greek tragedies that
have come down to us. This occupied the greater part of the next six

The published Introduction gives a true picture of the stage of my
development then, partly because it shows the manner in which I had
worked together external influences, the Kierkegaardian thoughts and the
Hegelian method, partly because with no little definiteness it reveals a
fundamental characteristic of my nature and a fundamental tendency of my
mind, since it is, throughout, a protest against the ethical conception
of poetry and is a proof of how moral ideas, when they become part of an
artistic whole, lose their peculiar stamp and assume another aspect.

In November, 1862, I joined a very large recently started
undergraduates' society, which met once a fortnight at Borch's College
to hear lectures and afterwards discuss them together. It numbered full
fifty members, amongst them most of the men of that generation who
afterwards distinguished themselves in Denmark. The later known
politician, Octavius Hansen, was Speaker of the Meetings, and even then
seemed made for the post. His parliamentary bearing was unrivalled. It
was not for nothing he was English on the mother's side. He looked
uncommonly handsome on the platform, with his unmoved face, his
beautiful eyes, and his brown beard, curled like that of Pericles in the
Greek busts. He was good-humoured, just, and well-informed. Of the
numerous members, Wilhelm Thomsen the philologist was certainly the most
prominent, and the only one whom I later on came to value, that is, for
purely personal reasons; in daily association it was only once in a way
that Thomsen could contribute anything from his special store of
knowledge. One day, when we had been discussing the study of cuneiform
inscriptions, the young philologist had said, half in jest, half in
earnest: "If a stone were to fall down from the Sun with an inscription
in unknown signs, in an unknown language, upon it, we should be able to
make it out,"--a remark which I called to mind many years later when
Thomsen deciphered the Ancient Turkish inscriptions in the Mountains of

A great many political lectures were given. I gave one on Heiberg's

On January 1, 1863, I received a New Year's letter from Broechner, in
which he wrote that the essay on Romeo and Juliet had so impressed him
that, in his opinion, no one could dispute my fitness to fill the Chair
of Aesthetics, which in the nature of things would soon be vacant, since
Hauch, at his advanced age, could hardly continue to occupy it very

Thus it was that my eager patron first introduced what became a
wearisome tangle, lasting a whole generation, concerning my claims to a
certain post, which gradually became in my life what the French call
_une scie_, an irritating puzzle, in which I myself took no part,
but which attached itself to my name.

That letter agitated me very much; not because at so young an age the
prospect of an honourable position in society was held out to me by a
man who was in a position to judge of my fitness for it, but because
this smiling prospect of an official post was in my eyes a snare which
might hold me so firmly that I should not be able to pursue the path of
renunciation that alone seemed to me to lead to my life's goal. I felt
myself an apostle, but an apostle and a professor were, very far apart.
I certainly remembered that the Apostle Paul had been a tent-maker. But
I feared that, once appointed, I should lose my ideal standard of life
and sink down into insipid mediocrity. If I once deviated from my path,
I might not so easily find it again. It was more difficult to resign a
professorship than never to accept it. And, once a professor, a man soon
got married and settled down as a citizen of the state, not in a
position to dare anything. To dispose of my life at Broechner's request
would be like selling my soul to the Devil.

So I replied briefly that I was too much attached to Hauch to be able or
willing to speculate on his death. But to this Broechner very logically
replied: "I am not speculating on his death, but on his life, for the
longer he lives, the better you will be prepared to be his successor."

By the middle of June, 1863, the prize paper was copied out. In
September the verdict was announced; the gold medal was awarded to me
with a laudatory criticism. The gold medal was also won by my friend
Jens Paludan-Mueller for a historic paper, and in October, at the annual
Ceremony at the University, we were presented with the thin medal
bearing the figure of Athene, which, for my part, being in need of a
Winter overcoat, I sold next day. Clausen, the Rector, a little man with
regular features, reserved face and smooth white hair, said to us that
he hoped this might prove the first fruits of a far-reaching activity in
the field of Danish literature. But what gave me much greater pleasure
was that I was shaken hands with by Monrad, who was present as Minister
for Education. Although Clausen was well known, both as a theologian and
an important National Liberal, I cared nothing for him. But I was a
little proud of Monrad's hand-pressure, for his political liberality,
and especially his tremendous capacity for work, compelled respect,
while from his handsome face with its thoughtful, commanding forehead,
there shone the evidence of transcendent ability.


On the morning of November 15th, 1863, Julius Lange and I went together
to offer our congratulations to Frederik Nutzhorn, whose birthday it
was. His sisters received me with their usual cheerfulness, but their
father, the old doctor, remarked as I entered: "You come with grave
thoughts in your mind, too," for the general uneasiness occasioned by
Frederik VII's state of health was reflected in my face. There was good
reason for anxiety concerning all the future events of which an
unfavourable turn of his illness might be the signal.

I went home with Julius Lange, who read a few wild fragments of his
"System" to me. This turned upon the contrasting ideas of
_Contemplation_ and _Sympathy_, corresponding to the inhaling
and exhaling of the breath; the resting-point of the breathing was the
moment of actual consciousness, etc.; altogether very young, curious,
and confused.

In the afternoon came the news of the King's death. In the evening, at
the Students' Union, there was great commotion and much anxiety. There
were rumours of a change of Ministry, of a Bluhme-David-Ussing Ministry,
and of whether the new King would be willing to sign the Constitution
from which people childishly expected the final incorporation of Slesvig
into Denmark. That evening I made the acquaintance of the poet Christian
Richardt, who told me that he had noticed my face before he knew my
name. Julius Lange was exceedingly exasperated and out of spirits. Ploug
went down the stairs looking like a man whose hopes had been shattered,
and whom the blow had found unprepared. His paper had persistently sown
distrust of the Prince of Denmark.

The Proclamation was to take place in front of Christiansborg Castle on
December 16th, at 11 o'clock. I was fetched to it by a student of the
same age, the present Bishop Frederik Nielsen. The latter had made my
acquaintance when a Free-thinker, but fortunately he recognised his
errors only a very few years later, and afterwards the valiant
theologian wrote articles and pamphlets against the heretic he had
originally cultivated for holding the same opinions as himself. There is
hardly anyone in Denmark who persists in error; people recognise their
mistakes in time, before they have taken harm to their souls; sometimes,
indeed, so much betimes that they are not even a hindrance to their
worldly career.

The space in front of the Castle was black with people, most of whom
were in a state of no little excitement. Hall, who was then Prime
Minister, stepped out on the balcony of the castle, grave and upright,
and said, first standing with his back to the Castle, then looking to
the right and the left, these words: "King Frederik VII is dead. Long
live King Christian IX!"

Then the King came forward. There were loud shouts, doubtless some cries
of "Long live the King," but still more and louder shouts of: "The
Constitution forever!" which were by no means loyally intended. At a
distance, from the Castle balcony, the different shouts could, of
course, not be distinguished. As the King took them all to be shouts of
acclamation, he bowed politely several times, and as the shouts
continued kissed his hand to right and left. The effect was not what he
had intended. His action was not understood as a simple-hearted
expression of pure good-will. People were used to a very different
bearing on the part of their King. With all his faults and foibles,
Frederik VII was always in manner the Father of his people; always the
graceful superior; head up and shoulders well back, patronisingly and
affectionately waving his hand: "Thank you, my children, thank you! And
now go home and say 'Good-morning' to your wives and children from the
King!" One could not imagine Frederik VII bowing to the people, much
less kissing his hand to them.

There was a stormy meeting of the Students' Union that evening. Vilhelm
Rode made the principal speech and caustically emphasised that it took
more than a "Kiss of the hand and a parade bow" to win the hearts of the
Danish people. The new dynasty, the head of which had been abused for
years by the National Liberal press, especially in _The Fatherland_,
who had thrown suspicion of German sympathies on the heir-presumptive, was
still so weak that none of the students thought it necessary to take much
notice of the change of sovereigns that had taken place. This was partly
because since Frederik VII's time people had been accustomed to
indiscriminate free speech concerning the King's person--it was the
fashion and meant nothing, as he was beloved by the body of the people
--partly because what had happened was not regarded as irrevocable. All
depended on whether the King signed the Constitution, and even the coolest
and most conservative, who considered that his signing it would be a fatal
misfortune, thought it possible that Christian IX. would be dethroned if
he did not. So it is not difficult to form some idea of how the Hotspurs
talked. The whole town was in a fever, and it was said that Prince Oscar
was in Scania, ready at the first sign to cross the Sound and allow
himself to be proclaimed King on behalf of Charles XV. Men with
Scandinavian sympathies hoped for this solution, by means of which the
three kingdoms would have been united without a blow being struck.

In the middle of the meeting, there arrived a message from Crone, the
Head of Police, which was delivered verbally in this incredibly
irregular form--that the Head of Police was as good a Scandinavian as
anyone, but he begged the students for their own sakes to refrain from
any kind of street disturbance that would oblige him to interfere.

I, who had stood on the open space in front of the Castle, lost in the
crowd, and in the evening at the meeting of the students was auditor to
the passionate utterances let fall there, felt my mood violently swayed,
but was altogether undecided with regard to the political question, the
compass of which I could not fully perceive. I felt anxious as to the
attitude of foreign powers would be in the event of the signing of the
Constitution. Old C.N. David had said in his own home that if the matter
should depend on him, which, however, he hoped it would not, he would
not permit the signing of the Constitution, were he the only man in
Denmark of that way of thinking, since by so doing we should lose our
guarantee of existence, and get two enemies instead of one, Russia as
well as Germany.

The same evening I wrote down: "It is under such circumstances as these
that one realises how difficult it is to lead a really ethical
existence. I am not far-sighted enough to perceive what would be the
results of that which to me seems desirable, and one cannot
conscientiously mix one's self up in what one does not understand.
Nevertheless, as I stood in the square in front of the Castle, I was so
excited that I even detected in myself an inclination to come forward as
a political speaker, greenhorn though I be."


On the 18th of November, the fever in the town was at its height. From
early in the morning the space in front of the Castle was crowded with
people. Orla Lehmann, a Minister at the time, came out of the Castle,
made his way through the crowd, and shouted again and again, first to
one side, then to the other:

"He has signed! He has signed!"

He did not say: "The King."

The people now endured seven weeks of uninterrupted change and
kaleidoscopic alteration of the political situation. Relations with all
foreign powers, and even with Sweden and Norway, presented a different
aspect to the Danish public every week. Sweden's withdrawal created a
very bitter impression; the public had been induced to believe that an
alliance was concluded. Then followed the "pressure" in Copenhagen by
the emissaries of all the Powers, to induce the Government to recall the
November Constitution, then the Czar's letter to the Duke of
Augustenborg, finally the occupation of Holstein by German troops, with
all the censure and disgrace that the Danish army had to endure, for
Holstein was evacuated without a blow being struck, and the Duke, to the
accompanyment of scorn and derision heaped on the Danes, was proclaimed
in all the towns of Holstein.

On Christmas Eve came tidings of the convocation of the Senate,
simultaneously with a change of Ministry which placed Monrad at the head
of the country, and in connection with this a rumour that all young men
of twenty-one were to be called out at once. This last proved to be
incorrect, and the minds of the young men alternated between composure
at the prospect of war and an enthusiastic desire for war, and a belief
that there would be no war at all. The first few days in January,
building on the rumour that the last note from England had promised help
in the event of the Eider being passed, people began to hope that the
war might be avoided, and pinned their faith to Monrad's dictatorship.

Frederik Nutzhorn, who did not believe there would be a war, started on
a visit to Rome; Jens Paludan-Mueller, who had been called out, was
quartered at Rendsborg until the German troops marched in; Julius Lange,
who, as he had just become engaged, did not wish to see his work
interrupted and his future prospects delayed by the war, had gone to
Islingen, where he had originally made the acquaintance of his fiancee.
Under these circumstances, as a twenty-one-year-old student who had
completed his university studies, I was anxious to get my examination
over as quickly as possible. At the end of 1863 I wrote to my teacher,
Professor Broechner, who had promised me a short philosophical summary as
a preparation for the University test: "I shall sit under a conjunction
of all the most unfavourable circumstances possible, since for more than
a month my head has been so full of the events of the day that I have
been able neither to read nor think, while the time of the examination
itself promises to be still more disquiet. Still, I dare not draw back,
as I should then risk--which may possibly happen in any case--being
hindered from my examination by being called out by the conscription and
perhaps come to lie in my grave as _Studiosus_ instead of
_candidatus magisterii_, which latter looks infinitely more
impressive and is more satisfying to a man as greedy of honour as Your
respectful and heartily affectionate, etc."


Shortly before, I had paid my first visit to Professor Rasmus Nielsen.
He was exceedingly agreeable, recognised me, whom perhaps he remembered
examining, and accorded me a whole hour's conversation. He was, as
always, alert and fiery, not in the least blase, but with a slight
suggestion of charlatanism about him. His conversation was as lively and
disconnected as his lectures; there was a charm in the clear glance of
his green eyes, a look of genius about his face. He talked for a long
time about Herbart, whose Aesthetics, for that matter, he betrayed
little knowledge of, then of Hegel, Heiberg, and Kierkegaard. To my
intense surprise, he opened up a prospect, conflicting with the opinions
he had publicly advocated, that Science, "when analyses had been carried
far enough," might come to prove the possibility of miracles. This was
an offence against my most sacred convictions.

Nielsen had recently, from the cathedra, announced his renunciation of
the Kierkegaard standpoint he had so long maintained, in the phrase:
"The Kierkegaard theory is impracticable"; he had, perhaps influenced
somewhat by the Queen Dowager, who about that time frequently invited
him to meet Grundtvig, drawn nearer to Grundtvigian ways of thinking,--
as Broechner sarcastically remarked about him: "The farther from
Kierkegaard, the nearer to the Queen Dowager."

In the midst of my final preparations for the examination, I wrestled,
as was my wont, with my attempts to come to a clear understanding over
Duty and Life, and was startled by the indescribable irony in the word
by which I was accustomed to interpret my ethically religious
endeavours,--_Himmelspraet_. [Footnote: Word implying one who
attempts to spring up to Heaven, and of course falls miserably to earth
again. The word, in ordinary conversation, is applied to anyone tossed
in a blanket.]

I handed in, then, my request to be allowed to sit for my Master of Arts
examination; the indefatigable Broechner had already mentioned the matter
to the Dean of the University, who understood the examinee's reasons for
haste. But the University moved so slowly that it was some weeks before
I received the special paper set me, which, to my horror, ran as
follows: "Determine the correlation between the pathetic and the
symbolic in general, in order by that means to elucidate the contrast
between Shakespeare's tragedies and Dante's _Divina Commedia_,
together with the possible errors into which one might fall through a
one-sided preponderance of either of these two elements."

This paper, which had been set by R. Nielsen, is characteristic of the
purely speculative manner, indifferent to all study of history, in which
Aesthetics were at that time pursued in Copenhagen. It was, moreover,
worded with unpardonable carelessness; it was impossible to tell from it
what was to be understood by the correlation on which it was based, and
which was assumed to be a given conclusion. Even so speculative a
thinker as Frederik Paludan-Mueller called the question absolutely
meaningless. It looked as though its author had imagined Shakespeare's
dramas and Dante's epic were produced by a kind of artistic commingling
of pathetic with symbolic elements, and as though he wished to call
attention to the danger of reversing the correct proportions, for
instance, by the symbolic obtaining the preponderance in tragedy, or
pathos in the epopee, or to the danger of exaggerating these
proportions, until there was too much tragic pathos, or too much epic
symbolism. But a scientific definition of the expressions used was
altogether lacking, and I had to devote a whole chapter to the
examination of the meaning of the problem proposed to me.

The essay, for the writing of which I was allowed six weeks, was handed
in, 188 folio pages long, at the right time. By reason of the sheer
foolishness of the question, it was never published.

In a postscript, I wrote: "I beg my honoured examiners to remember the
time during which this treatise was written, a time more eventful than
any other young men can have been through, and during which I, for my
part, have for days at a time been unable to work, and should have been
ashamed if I could have done so."

In explanation of this statement, the following jottings, written down
at the time on a sheet of paper:

_Sunday, Jan. 17th_. Received letter telling me I may fetch my
leading question to-morrow at 5 o'clock.

_Monday, Feb. 1st_. Heard to-day that the Germans have passed the
Eider and that the first shots have been exchanged.

_Saturday, Feb. 6th_. Received to-day the terrible,
incomprehensible, but only too certain news that the Danevirke has been
abandoned without a blow being struck. This is indescribable,

_Thursday, Feb. 28th_. We may, unfortunately, assume it as certain
that my dear friend Jens Paludan-Mueller fell at Oversoe on Feb. 5th.

_Feb. 28th_. Heard definitely to-day.--At half-past one this night
finished my essay.


I thought about this time of nothing but my desire to become a competent
soldier of my country. There was nothing I wanted more, but I felt
physically very weak. When the first news of the battles of Midsunde and
Bustrup arrived, I was very strongly inclined to follow Julius Lange to
the Reserve Officers' School. When tidings came of the abandonment of
the Danevirke my enthusiasm cooled; it was as though I foresaw how
little prospect of success there was. Still, I was less melancholy than
Lange at the thought of going to the war. I was single, and delighted at
the thought of going straight from the examination-table into a camp
life, and from a book-mad student to become a lieutenant. I was
influenced most by the prospect of seeing Lange every day at the
Officers' School, and on the field. But my comrades explained to me that
even if Lange and I came out of the School at the same time, it did not
follow that we should be in the same division, and that the thing,
moreover, that was wanted in an officer, was entire self-dependence.
They also pointed out to me the improbability of my being able to do the
least good, or having the slightest likelihood in front of me of doing
anything but quickly find myself in hospital. I did not really think
myself that I should be able to stand the fatigue, as the pupils of the
military academy went over to the army with an equipment that I could
scarcely have carried. I could not possibly suppose that the
conscription would select me as a private, on account of my fragile
build; but like all the rest, I was expecting every day a general
ordering out of the fit men of my age.

All this time I worked with might and main at the development of my
physical strength and accomplishments. I went every day to fencing
practice, likewise to cavalry sword practice; I took lessons in the use
of the bayonet, and I took part every afternoon in the shooting
practices conducted by the officers--with the old muzzle-loaders which
were the army weapons at the time. I was very delighted one day when Mr.
Hagemeister, the fencing-master, one of the many splendid old Holstein
non-commissioned officers holding the rank of lieutenant, said I was "A
smart fencer."


Meanwhile, the examination was taking its course. As real curiosities, I
here reproduce the questions set me. The three to be replied to in
writing were:

1. To what extent can poetry be called the ideal History?

2. In what manner may the philosophical ideas of Spinoza and Fichte lead
to a want of appreciation of the idea of beauty?

3. In what relation does the comic stand to its limitations and its
various contrasts?

The three questions which were to be replied to in lectures before the
University ran as follows:

1. Show, through poems in our literature, to what extent poetry may
venture to set itself the task of presenting the Idea in a form
coinciding with the philosophical understanding of it?

2. Point out the special contributions to a philosophical definition of
the Idea made by Aesthetics in particular.

3. What are the merits and defects of Schiller's tragedies?

These questions, in conjunction with the main question, may well be
designated a piece of contemporary history; they depict exactly both the
Science of the time and the peculiar philosophical language it adopted.
Hardly more than one, or at most two, of them could one imagine set to-

After the final (and best) lecture, on Schiller, which was given at six
hours' notice on April 25th, the judges, Hauch, Nielsen and Broechner,
deliberated for about ten minutes, then called in the auditors and R.
Nielsen read aloud the following verdict: "The candidate, in his long
essay, in the shorter written tests, and in his oral lectures, has
manifested such knowledge of his subject, such intellectual maturity,
and such originality in the treatment of his themes, that we have on
that account unanimously awarded him the mark: _admissus cum laude


The unusually favourable result of this examination attracted the
attention of academical and other circles towards me. The mark
_admissus cum praecipua laude_ had only very rarely been given
before. Hauch expressed his satisfaction at home in no measured terms.
His wife stopped my grandfather in the street and informed him that his
grandson was the cleverest and best-read young man that her husband had
come across during his University experience. When I went to the old
poet after the examination to thank him, he said to me (these were his
very words): "I am an old man and must die soon; you must be my
successor at the University; I shall say so unreservedly; indeed, I will
even say it on my death-bed." Strangely enough, he did say it and record
it on his death-bed seven years later, exactly as he had promised to do.

In Broechner's house, too, there was a great deal said about my becoming
a professor. I myself was despondent about it; I thought only of the
war, only wished to be fit for a soldier. Hauch was pleased at my
wanting to be a soldier. "It is fine of you, if you can only stand it."
When Hauch heard for certain that I was only 22 years old (he himself
was 73), he started up in his chair and said:

"Why, it is incredible that at your age you can have got so far." Rasmus
Nielsen was the only one of the professors who did not entertain me with
the discussion of my future academic prospects; but he it was who gave
me the highest praise:

"According to our unanimous opinions," said he, "you are the foremost of
all the young men."

I was only the more determined not to let myself be buried alive in the
flower of my youth by accepting professorship before I had been able to
live and breathe freely.--I might have spared myself any anxiety.


A few days later, on May both, a month's armistice was proclaimed, which
was generally construed as a preliminary to peace, if this could be
attained under possible conditions. It was said, and soon confirmed,
that at the Conference of London, Denmark had been offered North
Slesvig. Most unfortunately, Denmark refused the offer. On June 26th,
the war broke out again; two days later Alsen was lost. When the young
men were called up to the officers' board for conscription, "being too
slight of build," I was deferred till next year. Were the guerilla war
which was talked about to break out, I was determined all the same to
take my part in it.

But the Bluhme-David Ministry succeeded to Monrad's, and concluded the
oppressive peace.

I was very far from regarding this peace as final; for that, I was too
inexperienced. I correctly foresaw that before very long the state of
affairs in Europe would give rise to other wars, but I incorrectly
concluded therefrom that another fight for Slesvig, or in any case, its
restoration to Denmark, would result from them.

In the meantime peace, discouraging, disheartening though it was, opened
up possibilities of further undisturbed study, fresh absorption in
scientific occupations.

When, after the termination of my University studies, I had to think of
earning my own living, I not only, as before, gave private lessons, but
I gave lectures, first to a circle before whom I lectured on Northern
and Greek mythology, then to another, in David's house, to whom I
unfolded the inner history of modern literature to interested listeners,
amongst them several beautiful young girls. I finally engaged myself to
my old Arithmetic master as teacher of Danish in his course for National
school-mistresses. I found the work horribly dull, but there was one
racy thing about it, namely, that I, the master, was three years younger
than the youngest of my pupils; these latter were obliged to be at least
25, and consequently even at their youngest were quite old in my eyes.

But there were many much older women amongst them, one even, a priest or
schoolmaster's widow, of over fifty, a poor thing who had to begin--at
her age!--from the very beginning, though she was anything but gifted.
It was not quite easy for a master without a single hair on his face to
make himself respected. But I succeeded, my pupils being so well-

It was an exciting moment when these pupils of mine went up for their
teacher's examination, I being present as auditor.

I continued to teach this course until the Autumn of 1868. When I left,
I was gratified by one of the ladies rising and, in a little speech,
thanking me for the good instruction I had given.


Meanwhile, I pursued my studies with ardour and enjoyment, read a very
great deal of _belles-lettres_, and continued to work at German
philosophy, inasmuch as I now, though without special profit, plunged
into a study of Trendelenburg. My thoughts were very much more
stimulated by Gabriel Sibbern, on account of his consistent scepticism.
It was just about this time that I made his acquaintance. Old before his
time, bald at forty, tormented with gout, although he had always lived a
most abstemious life, Gabriel Sibbern, with his serene face, clever eyes
and independent thoughts, was an emancipating phenomenon. He had
divested himself of all Danish prejudices. "There is still a great deal
of phlogiston in our philosophy," he used to say sometimes.

I had long been anxious to come to a clear scientific understanding of
the musical elements in speech. I had busied myself a great deal with
metrical art. Bruecke's _Inquiries_ were not yet in existence, but I
was fascinated by Apel's attempt to make use of notes (crotchets,
quavers, dotted quavers, and semi-quavers) as metrical signs, and by
J.L. Heiberg's attempt to apply this system to Danish verse. But the
system was too arbitrary for anything to be built up upon it. And I then
made up my mind, in order better to understand the nature of verse, to
begin at once to familiarise myself with the theory of music, which
seemed to promise the opening out of fresh horizons in the
interpretation of the harmonies of language.

With the assistance of a young musician, later the well-known composer
and Concert Director, Victor Bendix, I plunged into the mysteries of
thorough-bass, and went so far as to write out the entire theory of
harmonics. I learnt to express myself in the barbaric language of music,
to speak of minor scales in fifths, to understand what was meant by
enharmonic ambiguity. I studied voice modulation, permissible and non-
permissible octaves; but I did not find what I hoped. I composed a few
short tunes, which I myself thought very pretty, but which my young
master made great fun of, and with good reason. One evening, when he was
in very high spirits, he parodied one of them at the piano in front of a
large party of people. It was a disconcerting moment for the composer of
the tune.

A connection between metrical art and thorough-bass was not
discoverable. Neither were there any unbreakable laws governing
thorough-bass. The unversed person believes that in harmonics he will
find quite definite rules which must not be transgressed. But again and
again he discovers that what is, as a general rule, forbidden, is
nevertheless, under certain circumstances, quite permissible.

Thus he learns that in music there is no rule binding on genius. And
perhaps he asks himself whether, in other domains, there are rules which
are binding on genius.


I had lived so little with Nature. The Spring of 1865, the first Spring
I had spent in the country--although quite near to Copenhagen--meant to
me rich impressions of nature that I never forgot, a long chain of the
most exquisite Spring memories. I understood as I had never done before
the inborn affection felt by every human being for the virgin, the
fresh, the untouched, the not quite full-blown, just as it is about to
pass over into its maturity. It was in the latter half of May. I was
looking for anemones and violets, which had not yet gone to seed. The
budding beech foliage, the silver poplar with its shining leaves, the
maple with its blossoms, stirred me, filled me with Spring rapture. I
could lie long in the woods with my gaze fastened on a light-green
branch with the sun shining through it, and, as if stirred by the wind,
lighted up from different sides, and floating and flashing as if coated
with silver. I saw the empty husks fall by the hundred before the wind.
I followed up the streams in the wood to their sources. For a while a
rivulet oozed slowly along. Then came a little fall, and it began to
speak, to gurgle and murmur; but only at this one place, and here it
seemed to me to be like a young man or woman of twenty. Now that I, who
in my boyhood's days had gone for botanical excursions with my master
and school-fellows, absorbed myself in every plant, from greatest to
least, without wishing to arrange or classify any, it seemed as though
an infinite wisdom in Nature were being revealed to me for the first

As near to Copenhagen as Soendermarken, stood the beech, with its curly
leaves and black velvet buds in their silk jackets. In the gardens of
Frederiksberg Avenue, the elder exhaled its fragrance, but was soon
over; the hawthorn sprang out in all its splendour. I was struck by the
loveliness of the chestnut blooms. When the blossom on the cherry-trees
had withered, the lilac was out, and the apple and pear-trees paraded
their gala dress.

It interested me to notice how the colour sometimes indicated the shape,
sometimes produced designs quite independently of it. I loitered in
gardens to feast my eyes on the charming grouping of the rhubarb leaves
no less than on the exuberance of their flowers, and the leaves of the
scorzonera attracted my attention, because they all grew in one plane,
but swung about like lances.

And as my habit was, I philosophised over what I saw and had made my
own, and I strove to understand in what beauty consisted. I considered
the relations between beauty and life; why was it that artificial
flowers and the imitation of a nightingale's song were so far behind
their originals in beauty? What was the difference between the beauty of
the real, the artificial and the painted flower? Might not Herbart's
Aesthetics be wrong, in their theory of form? The form itself might be
the same in Nature and the imitation, in the rose made of velvet and the
rose growing in the garden. And I reflected on the connection between
the beauty of the species and that of the individual. Whether a lily be
a beautiful flower, I can say without ever having seen lilies before,
but whether it be a beautiful lily, I cannot. The individual can only be
termed beautiful when more like than unlike to the ideal of the species.
And I mused over the translation of the idea of beauty into actions and
intellectual conditions. Was not the death of Socrates more beautiful
than his preservation of Alcibiades' life in battle?--though this was
none the less a beautiful act.


In the month of July I started on a walking tour through Jutland, with
the scenery of which province I had not hitherto been acquainted;
travelled also occasionally by the old stage-coaches, found myself at
Skanderborg, which, for me, was surrounded by the halo of mediaeval
romance; wandered to Silkeborg, entering into conversation with no end
of people, peasants, peasant boys, and pretty little peasant girls,
whose speech was not always easy to understand. I studied their Juttish,
and laughed heartily at their keen wit. The country inns were often
over-full, so that I was obliged to sleep on the floor; my wanderings
were often somewhat exhausting, as there were constant showers, and the
night rain had soaked the roads. I drove in a peasant's cart to Mariager
to visit my friend Emil Petersen, who was in the office of the district
judge of that place, making his home with his brother-in-law and his
very pretty sister, and I stayed for a few days with him. Here I became
acquainted with a little out-of-the-world Danish town. The priest and
his wife were an interesting and extraordinary couple. The priest, the
before-mentioned Pastor Ussing, a little, nervous, intelligent and
unworldly man, was a pious dreamer, whose religion was entirely
rationalistic. Renan's recently published _Life of Jesus_ was so
far from shocking him that the book seemed to him in all essentials to
be on the right track. He had lived in the Danish West Indies, and there
he had become acquainted with his wife, a lady with social triumphs
behind her, whose charms he never wearied of admiring. The mere way in
which she placed her hat upon her head, or threw a shawl round her
shoulders, could make him fall into ecstasies, even though he only
expressed his delight in her in half-facetious terms. This couple showed
me the most cordial kindness; to their unpractised, provincial eyes, I
seemed to be a typical young man of the world, and they amazed me with
the way in which they took it for granted that I led the dances at every
ball, was a lion in society, etc. I was reminded of the student's words
in Hostrup's vaudeville: "Goodness! How innocent they must be to think
_me_ a dandy!" and vainly assured them that I lived an exceedingly
unnoticed life in Copenhagen, and had never opened a ball in my life.

The priest asked us two young men to go and hear his Sunday sermon, and
promised that we should be pleased with it. We went to church somewhat
expectant, and the sermon was certainly a most unusual one. It was
delivered with great rapture, after the priest had bent his head in his
hands for a time in silent reflection. With great earnestness he
addressed himself to his congregation and demanded, after having put
before them some of the cures in the New Testament, generally extolled
as miracles, whether they dared maintain that these so-called miracles
could not have taken place according to Nature's laws. And when he
impressively called out: "Darest thou, with thy limited human
intelligence, say, 'This cannot happen naturally?'" it was in the same
tone and style in which another priest would have shouted out: "Darest
thou, with thy limited human intelligence, deny the miracle?" The
peasants, who, no doubt, understood his words quite in this latter
sense, did not understand in the least the difference and the contrast,
but judged much the same as a dog to whom one might talk angrily with
caressing words or caressingly with abusive words, simply from the
speaker's tone; and both his tone and facial expression were ecstatic.
They perceived no heresy and felt themselves no less edified by the
address than did the two young Copenhagen graduates.


My first newspaper articles were printed in _The Fatherland_ and
the _Illustrated Times_; the very first was a notice of Paludan-
Mueller's _Fountain of Youth_, in which I had compressed matter for
three or four lectures; a commissioned article on Dante was about the
next, but this was of no value. But it was a great event to see one's
name printed in a newspaper for the first time, and my mother saw it not
without emotion.

About this time Henrik Ibsen's first books fell into my hands and
attracted my attention towards this rising poet, who, among the leading
Danish critics, encountered a reservation of appreciation that scarcely
concealed ill-will. From Norway I procured Ibsen's oldest dramas, which
had appeared there.

Frederik Algreen-Ussing asked me to contribute to a large biographical
dictionary, which he had for a long time been planning and preparing,
and which he had just concluded a contract for with the largest Danish
publishing firm of the time. A young man who hated the August
Association and all its deeds could not fail to feel scruples about
engaging in any collaboration with its founder. But Algreen-Ussing knew
how to vanquish all such scruples, inasmuch as he waived all rights of
censorship, and left it to each author to write as he liked upon his own
responsibility. And he was perfectly loyal to his promise. Moreover, the
question here was one of literature only, and not politics.

As the Danish authors were to be dealt with in alphabetical order, the
article that had to be set about at once was an account of the only
Danish poet whose name began with _Aa_. Thus it was that Emil
Aarestrup came to be the first Danish poet of the past of whom I chanced
to write. I heard of the existence of a collection of unprinted letters
from Aarestrup to his friend Petersen, the grocer, which were of very
great advantage to my essay. A visit that I paid to the widow of the
poet, on the other hand, led to no result whatever. It was strange to
meet the lady so enthusiastically sung by Aarestrup in his young days,
as a sulky and suspicious old woman without a trace of former beauty,
who declared that she had no letters from her husband, and could not
give me any information about him. It was only a generation later that
his letters to her came into my hands.

In September, 1865, the article on Aarestrup was finished. It was
intended to be quickly followed up by others on the remaining Danish
authors in A. But it was the only one that was written, for Algreen-
Ussing's apparently so well planned undertaking was suddenly brought to
a standstill. The proprietors of the National Liberal papers declared,
as soon as they heard of the plan, that they would not on any account
agree to its being carried out by a man who took up such a "reactionary"
position in Danish politics as Ussing, and in face of their threat to
annihilate the undertaking, the publishers, who were altogether
dependent on the attitude of these papers, did not dare to defy them.
They explained to Algreen-Ussing that they felt obliged to break their
contract with him, but were willing to pay him the compensation agreed
upon beforehand for failure to carry it out. He fought long to get his
project carried through, but his efforts proving fruitless, he refused,
from pride, to accept any indemnity, and was thus compelled to see with
bitterness many years' work and an infinite amount of trouble completely
wasted. Shortly afterwards he succumbed to an attack of illness.


A young man who plunged into philosophical study at the beginning of the
sixties in Denmark, and was specially engrossed by the boundary
relations between Philosophy and Religion, could not but come to the
conclusion that philosophical life would never flourish in Danish soil
until a great intellectual battle had been set on foot, in the course of
which conflicting opinions which had never yet been advanced in express
terms should be made manifest and wrestle with one another, until it
became clear which standpoints were untenable and which could be
maintained. Although he cherished warm feelings of affection for both R.
Nielsen and Broechner the two professors of Philosophy, he could not help
hoping for a discussion between them of the fundamental questions which
were engaging his mind. As Broechner's pupil, I said a little of what was
in my mind to him, but could not induce him to begin. Then I begged
Gabriel Sibbern to furnish a thorough criticism of Nielsen's books, but
he declined. I began to doubt whether I should be able to persuade the
elder men to speak.

A review in The _Fatherland_ of the first part of Nielsen's
_Logic of Fundamental Ideas_ roused my indignation. It was in
diametric opposition to what I considered irrefutably true, and was
written in the style, and with the metaphors, which the paper's literary
criticisms had brought into fashion, a style that was repugnant to me
with its sham poetical, or meaninglessly flat expressions ("Matter is
the hammer-stroke that the Ideal requires"--"Spontaneity is like food
that has once been eaten").

In an eleven-page letter to Broechner I condensed all that I had thought
about the philosophical study at the University during these first years
of my youth, and proved to him, in the keenest terms I could think of,
that it was his duty to the ideas whose spokesman he was, to come
forward, and that it would be foolish, in fact wrong, to leave the
matter alone. I knew well enough that I was jeopardising my precious
friendship with Broechner by my action, but I was willing to take the
risk. I did not expect any immediate result of my letter, but thought to
myself that it should ferment, and some time in the future might bear
fruit. The outcome of it far exceeded my expectations, inasmuch as
Broechner was moved by my letter, and not only thanked me warmly for my
daring words, but went without delay to Nielsen and told him that he
intended to write a book on his entire philosophical activity and
significance. Nielsen took his announcement with a good grace.

However, as Broechner immediately afterwards lost his young wife, and was
attacked by the insidious consumption which ravaged him for ten years,
the putting of this resolution into practice was for several years

At that I felt that I myself must venture, and, as a beginning, Julius
Lange and I, in collaboration, wrote a humorous article on Schmidt's
review of _The Logic of Fundamental Ideas_, which Lange was to get
into _The Daily Paper_, to which he had access. Three days after
the article was finished Lange came to me and told me that to his dismay
it was--gone. It was so exactly like him that I was just as delighted as
if he had informed me that the article was printed. For some time we
hoped that it might be on Lange's table, for, the day before, he had

"I am not of a curious disposition, but I should like to know what there
really is on that table!"

However, it had irrevocably disappeared.

I then came forward myself with a number of shorter articles which I
succeeded in getting accepted by the _Fatherland_. When I entered
for the first time Ploug's tiny little office high up at the top of a
house behind Hoejbro Place, the gruff man was not unfriendly. Surprised
at the youthful appearance of the person who walked in, he merely burst
out: "How old are you?" And to the reply: "Twenty-three and a half," he
said smilingly, "Don't forget the half."

The first article was not printed for months; the next ones appeared
without such long delay. But Ploug was somewhat uneasy about the
contents of them, and cautiously remarked that there was "not to be any
fun made of Religion," which it could not truthfully be said I had done.
But I had touched upon dogmatic Belief and that was enough.

Later on, Ploug had a notion that, as he once wrote, he had excluded me
from the paper as soon as he perceived my mischievous tendency. This was
a failure of memory on his part; the reason I left the paper was a
different one, and I left of my own accord.

Bold and surly, virile and reliable as Ploug seemed, in things
journalistic you could place slight dependence on his word. His dearest
friend admitted as much; he gave his consent, and then forgot it, or
withdrew it. Nothing is more general, but it made an overweening
impression on a beginner like myself, inexperienced in the ways of life.

When Ibsen's _Brand_ came out, creating an unusual sensation, I
asked Ploug if I might review the book and received a definite "Yes"
from him. I then wrote my article, to which I devoted no little pains,
but when I took it in it was met by him, to my astonishment, with the
remark that the paper had now received another notice from their regular
reviewer, whom he "could not very well kick aside." Ploug's promise had
apparently been meaningless! I went my way with my article, firmly
resolved never to go there again.

From 1866 to 1870 I sought and found acceptance for my newspaper
articles (not very numerous) in Bille's _Daily Paper_, which in its
turn closed its columns to me after my first series of lectures at the
University of Copenhagen. Bille as an editor was pleasant, a little
patronising, it is true, but polite and invariably good-tempered. He
usually received his contributors reclining at full length on his sofa,
his head, with its beautifully cut features, resting against a cushion
and his comfortable little stomach protruding. He was scarcely of medium
height, quick in everything he did, very clear, a little flat; very
eloquent, but taking somewhat external views; pleased at the great
favour he enjoyed among the Copenhagen bourgeoisie. If he entered
Tivoli's Concert Hall in an evening all the waiter's ran about at once
like cockroaches. They hurried to know what he might please to want, and
fetched chairs for him and his party. Gay, adaptable, and practised, he
was the principal speaker at every social gathering. In his editorial
capacity he was courteous, decided, and a man of his word; he did not
allow himself to be alarmed by trifles. When Bjoernson attacked me (I was
at the time his youngest contributor), he raised my scale of pay,
unsolicited. The first hitch in our relations occurred when in 1869 I
published a translation of Mill's Subjection of Women. This book roused
Bille's exasperation and displeasure. He forbade it to be reviewed in
his paper, refused me permission to defend it in the paper, and would
not even allow the book in his house, so that his family had to read it
clandestinely, as a dangerous and pernicious work.


In the beginning of the year 1866 Ludvig David died suddenly in Rome, of
typhoid fever. His sorrowing parents founded in memory of him an
exhibition for law-students which bears and perpetuates his name. The
first executors of the fund were, in addition to his most intimate
friend, two young lawyers named Emil Petersen and Emil Bruun, who had
both been friends of his. The latter, who has not previously been
mentioned in these pages, was a strikingly handsome and clever young
man, remarkable for his calm and superior humour, and exceedingly self-
confident and virile. His attitude towards Ludvig David in his early
youth had been somewhat that of a protector. Unfortunately he was
seriously wounded during the first storming of the Dybboel redoubts by
the Germans; a bullet crushed one of the spinal vertebrae; gradually the
wound brought on consumption of the lungs and he died young.

Ludvig David's death was a great loss to his friends. It was not only
that he took such an affectionate interest in their welfare and
happiness, but he had a considerable gift for Mathematics and History,
and, from his home training, an understanding of affairs of state which
was considerably above that of most people. Peculiarly his own was a
combination of keen, disintegrating intelligence, and a tendency towards
comprehensive, rounded off, summarising. He had strong public
antipathies. In his opinion the years of peace that had followed the
first war in Slesvig had had an enervating effect; public speakers and
journalists had taken the places of brave men; many a solution of a
difficulty, announced at first with enthusiasm, had in course of time
petrified into a mere set phrase. He thought many of the leading men
among the Liberals superficial and devoid of character, and accused
them, with the pitilessness of youth, of mere verbiage. Influenced as he
was by Kierkegaard, such a man as Bille was naturally his aversion. He
considered--not altogether justly--that Bille cloaked himself in false

He himself was profoundly and actively philanthropic, with an impulse--
by no means universal--to relieve and help. Society life he hated; to
him it was waste of time and a torture to be obliged to figure in a
ballroom; he cared very little for his appearance, and was by no means
elegant in his dress. He was happy, however, in the unconstrained
society of the comrades he cared about, enjoyed a merry chat or a
frolicsome party, and in intimate conversation he would reveal his
inmost nature with modest unpretension, with good-natured wit, directed
against himself as much as against others, and with an understanding and
sympathetic eye for his surroundings. His warmest outburst had generally
a little touch of mockery or teasing about it, as though he were
repeating, half roguishly, the feelings of another, rather than
unreservedly expressing his own. But a heartfelt, steadfast look would
often come into his beautiful dark eyes.


His death left a great void in his home. His old father said to me one

"Strange how one ends as one begins! I have written no verses since my
early youth, and now I have written a poem on my grief for Ludvig. I
will read it to you."

There was an Art and Industrial Exhibition in Stockholm, that Summer,
which C.N. David was anxious to see. As he did not care to go alone, he
took me in his son's place. It was my first journey to a foreign
capital, and as such both enjoyable and profitable. I no longer, it is
true, had the same intense boyish impressionability as when I was in
Sweden for the first time, seven years before. The most trifling thing
then had been an experience. In Goeteborg I had stayed with a friend of
my mother's, whose twelve-year-old daughter, Bluma Alida, a wondrously
charming little maiden, had jokingly been destined by the two mothers
for my bride from the child's very birth. And at that time I had
assimilated every impression of people or scenery with a voracious
appetite which rendered these impressions ineffaceable all my life long.
That Summer month, my fancy had transformed every meeting with a young
girl into an adventure and fixed every landscape on my mental retina
with an affection such as the landscape painter generally only feels for
a place where he is specially at home. Then I had shared for a whole
month Goeteborg family and social life. Now I was merely travelling as a
tourist, and as the companion of a highly respected old man.

I was less entranced at Stockholm by the Industrial Exhibition than by
the National Museum and the Royal Theatre, where the lovely Hyasser
captivated me by her beauty and the keen energy of her acting. I became
exceedingly fond of Stockholm, this most beautifully situated of the
Northern capitals, and saw, with reverence, the places associated with
the name of Bellman. I also accompanied my old friend to Ulriksdal,
where the Swedish Queen Dowager expected him in audience. More than an
hour before we reached the Castle he threw away his cigar.

"I am an old courtier," he remarked. He had always been intimately
associated with the Danish Royal family; for a long time the Crown
Prince used to go regularly to his flat in Queen's Crossway Street, to
be instructed by him in political economy. He was consequently used to
Court ceremonial.

Beautiful were those Summer days, lovely the light nights in Stockholm.

One recollection from these weeks is associated with a night when the
sky was overcast. I had wandered round the town, before retiring to
rest, and somewhere, in a large square, slipping my hand in my pocket,
and feeling it full of bits of paper, could not remember how they got
there, and threw them away. When I was nearly back at the hotel it
flashed upon me that it had been small Swedish notes--all the money that
I had changed for my stay in Stockholm--that I had been carrying loose
in my pocket and had so thoughtlessly thrown away. With a great deal of
trouble, I found the square again, but of course not a sign of the
riches that in unpardonable forgetfulness I had scattered to the winds.
I was obliged to borrow six Rigsdaler (a sum of a little over thirteen
shillings) from my old protector. That my requirements were modest is
proved by the fact that this sum sufficed.

The Danish Ambassador was absent from Stockholm just at this time, and
the Charge d'Affaires at the Legation had to receive the Danish ex-
Minister in his stead. He was very attentive to us, and took the
travellers everywhere where C.N. David wished his arrival to be made
known. He himself, however, was a most unfortunate specimen of Danish
diplomacy, a man disintegrated by hideous debauchery, of coarse
conversation, and disposition so brutal that he kicked little children
aside with his foot when they got in front of him in the street.
Abnormities of too great irregularity brought about, not long
afterwards, his dismissal and his banishment to a little Danish island.

This man gave a large dinner-party in honour of the Danish ex-Minister,
to which, amongst others, all the Swedish and Norwegian Ministers in
Stockholm were invited. It was held at Hasselbakken, [Footnote: a
favourite outdoor pleasure resort at Stockholm.] and the arrangements
were magnificent. But what highly astonished me, and was in reality most
out of keeping in such a circle, was the tone that the conversation at
table gradually assumed, and especially the obscenity of the subjects of
conversation. It was not, however, the Ministers and Diplomats present,
but a Danish roue, a professor of Physics, who gave this turn to the
talk. He related anecdotes that would have made a sailor blush. Neither
Count Manderstroem, nor any of the other Ministers, neither Malmgren, nor
the dignified and handsome Norwegian Minister Bretteville, seemed to be
offended. Manderstroem's expression, however, changed very noticeably
when the professor ventured to make some pointed insinuations regarding
the Swedish attitude, and his personal attitude in particular, previous
to the Dano-German war and during its course. He suddenly pretended not
to understand, and changed the subject of conversation.

It produced an extremely painful impression upon me that not only the
Danish Charge d'Affaires, but apparently several of these fine
gentlemen, had determined on the additional amusement of making me
drunk. Everybody at table vied one with the other to drink my health,

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