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Recollections Of My Childhood And Youth by George Brandes

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by an edition of his collected works, or at any rate a very exhaustive
selection from them. He would not and could not direct so great an
undertaking himself, from another country; he only knew one man who was
capable of doing so, and him he requested to undertake the matter. He
had drawn up a plan of the edition, a sketch of the order in which the
writings were to come out, and what the volume was to contain, and he
placed it before me for approval or criticism. The edition was to be
preceded by an account of Goldschmidt as an author and of his artistic
development; if I would undertake to write this, I was asked to go to
see Goldschmidt, in order to hear what he himself regarded as the main
features and chief points of his literary career.

The draft of what the projected edition was to include made quite a
little parcel of papers; besides these, Steen gave me to read the actual
request to me to undertake the task, which was cautiously worded as a
letter, not to me, but to Bookseller Steen, and which Steen had been
expressly enjoined to bring back with him. Although I did not at all
like this last-mentioned item, and although this evidence of distrust
was in very conspicuous variance with the excessive and unmerited
confidence that was at the same time being shown me, this same
confidence impressed me greatly.

The information that Goldschmidt, undoubtedly the first prose writer in
the country, was about to break off his literary activity and
permanently leave Denmark, was in itself overwhelming and at once set my
imagination actively at work. What could the reason be? A crime? That
was out of the question. What else could there be but a love affair, and
that had my entire sympathy. It was well known that Goldschmidt admired
a very beautiful woman, who was watched the more jealously by her
husband, because the latter had for a great number of years been
paralysed. He would not allow her to go to the theatre to sit anywhere
but in the mirror box [Footnote: The mirror box was a box in the first
Royal Theatre, surrounded by mirrors and with a grating in front, where
the stage could be seen, reflected in the mirrors, but the occupants
were invisible. It was originally constructed to utilise a space whence
the performance could not otherwise be seen, and was generally occupied
by actresses, etc.], where she could not be seen by the public. The
husband met with no sympathy from the public; he had always been a
characterless and sterile writer, had published only two books, written
in a diametrically opposite spirit, flatly contradicting one another. As
long as he was able to go out he had dyed his red hair black. He was an
insignificant man in every way, and by his first marriage with an ugly
old maid had acquired the fortune which alone had enabled him to pay
court to the beautiful woman he subsequently won.

It had leaked out that she was the original of the beautiful woman in
The Inheritance, and that some of the letters that occur in it were
really notes from Goldschmidt to her.

What more likely than the assumption that the position of affairs had at
last become unbearable to Goldschmidt, and that he had determined on an
elopement to London? In a romantic purpose of the sort Goldschmidt could
count upon the sympathy of a hot-blooded young man. I consequently
declared myself quite willing to talk the matter over with the poet and
learn more particulars as to what was expected of me; meanwhile, I
thought I might promise my assistance. It was Easter week, I believe
Maunday Thursday; I promised to call upon Goldschmidt on one of the
holidays at a prearranged time.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday I was prevented from going to him, and I
had already made up my mind to pay my visit on Easter Monday when on
Monday morning I received a letter from Bookseller Steen which made me
exceedingly indignant. The letter, which exhibited, as I considered,
(incorrectly, as it turned out), unmistakably signs of having been
dictated to him, bore witness to the utmost impatience. Steen wrote that
after undertaking to pay a visit to Goldschmidt I had now let two days
elapse without fulfilling my promise. There was "no sense in keeping a
man waiting" day after day, on such important business; in Steen's
"personal opinion," it had not been at all polite of me, as the younger
author, not to inform Goldschmidt which day I would go to see him.

I was very much cooled by reading this letter. I saw that I had wounded
Goldschmidt's vanity deeply by not going to him immediately upon receipt
of his communication; but my chief impression was one of surprise that
Goldschmidt should reveal himself such a poor psychologist in my case.
How could he believe that I would allow myself to be terrified by rough
treatment or won by tactless reprimands? How could he think that I
regarded the task he wished to allot me as such an honour that for that
reason I had not refused it? Could not Goldschmidt understand that it
was solely the appeal to my better feelings from an opponent, struck by
an untoward fate, that had determined my attitude?

Simultaneously, though at first very faintly, a suspicion crossed my
mind. Was it possible that the whole touching story which had been
confided to me was a hoax calculated to disarm my antagonism, arouse my
sympathy and secure Goldschmidt a trumpeting herald? Was it possible
that the mysterious information about the flight to London was only an
untruth, the sole purpose of which was to get me into Goldschmidt's

I dismissed the thought at once as too improbable, but it recurred, for
I had learnt from experience that even distinguished authors sometimes
did not shrink from very daring means of securing the services of a
critic. A critic is like the rich heiress, who is always afraid of not
being loved for herself alone. Even then, I was very loth to believe
that any recognised author, much less a writer whose position was a
vexed question, would make advances to me from pure benevolence, for the
sake of my beautiful eyes, as they say in French.

At any rate, I had now made up my mind not to have anything whatever to
do with the matter. I replied emphatically:

"Lessons in politeness I take from no one, consequently return you the
enclosed papers. Be kind enough to appeal to some one else."

This reply was evidently not the one the letter had been intended to
evoke. Steen rushed up to me at once to apologise, but I did not see
him. Twice afterwards he came with humble messages from Goldschmidt
asking me to "do him the honour" of paying him a visit. But my pride was
touchy, and my determination unwavering. Undoubtedly Steen's letter was
sent at Goldschmidt's wish, but it is equally undoubted that its form
had not been approved by him. That the alliance so cleverly led up to
came to nothing was evidently as unexpected by the poet as unpalatable
to him.

Not long afterwards, I accidentally had strong confirmation of my
suspicion that the story of a flight from Denmark was merely an
invention calculated to trap me, and after the lapse of some time I
could no longer harbour a doubt that Goldschmidt had merely wished to
disarm a critic and secure himself a public crier.

This did not make me feel any the more tenderly disposed towards
Goldschmidt, and my feeling lent a sharper tone than it would otherwise
have had to an essay I wrote shortly afterwards about him on the
production of his play _Rabbi and Knight_ at the Royal Theatre.

Three years passed before our paths crossed again and a short-lived
association came about between us.


In my public capacity about this time, I had many against me and no one
wholly for me, except my old protector Broechner, who, for one thing, was
very ill, and for another, by reason of his ponderous language, was
unknown to the reading world at large. Among my personal friends there
was not one who shared my fundamental views; if they were fond of me, it
was in spite of my views. That in itself was a sufficient reason why I
could not expect them, in the intellectual feud in which I was still
engaged, to enter the lists on my behalf. I did not need any long
experience to perceive that complete and unmixed sympathy with my
endeavours was a thing I should not find. Such a sympathy I only met
with in reality from one of my comrades, Emil Petersen, a young private
individual with no connection whatever with literature, and without
influence in other directions.

Moreover, I had learnt long ago that, as a literary beginner in a
country on a Liliputian scale, I encountered prompt opposition at every
step, and that ill-will against me was always expressed much more
forcibly than good-will, was quickly, so to say, organised.

I had against me at once every literary or artistic critic who already
held an assured position, from the influential men who wrote in _The
Fatherland_ or the _Berlin Times_ to the small fry who snapped
in the lesser papers, and if they mentioned me at all it was with the
utmost contempt, or in some specially disparaging manner. It was the
rival that they fought against. Thus it has continued to be all my life.
Certain "critics," such as Falkman in Denmark and Wirsen in Sweden,
hardly ever put pen to paper for some forty years without bestowing an
affectionate thought upon me. (Later, in Norway, I became Collin's
_idee fixe_.)

Add to these all who feared and hated a train of thought which in their
opinion was dangerous to good old-fashioned faith and morality.

Definite as were the limits of my articles and longer contributions to
the dispute concerning Faith and Science, and although, strictly
speaking, they only hinged upon an obscure point in Rasmus Nielsen's
philosophy, they alarmed and excited a large section of the
ecclesiastics of the country. I had carefully avoided saying anything
against faith or piety; I knew that Orthodoxy was all-powerful in
Denmark. However, I did not meet with refutations, only with the
indignation of fanaticism. As far back as 1867 Bjoernson had come forward
in print against me, had reproached the Daily Paper with giving my
contributions a place in their columns, and reported their contents to
the Editor, who was away travelling, on the supposition that they must
have been accepted against his wishes; and although the article did not
bear Bjoernson's name, this attack was not without weight. The innocent
remark that Soeren Kierkegaard was the Tycho Brahe of our philosophy, as
great as Tycho Brahe, but, like him, failing to place the centre of our
solar system in its Sun, gave Bjoernson an opportunity for the
statement,--a very dangerous one for a young author of foreign origin to
make,--that the man who could write like that "had no views in common
with other Danes, no Danish mind."

The year after I was astonished by inflammatory outbursts on the part of
the clergy. One day in 1868 the much-respected Pastor Hohlenberg walked
into my friend Benny Spang's house, reprimanded her severely for
receiving such an undoubted heretic and heathen under her roof, and
demanded that she should break off all association with me. As she
refused to do so and turned a deaf ear to his arguments, losing all
self-control, he flung his felt hat on the floor, continued to rage and
rail against me, and, no result coming of it, dashed at last, in a
towering passion, out through the door, which he slammed behind him.
There was a farcical ending to the scene, since he was obliged to ring
at the door again for his hat, which, in his exasperation, he had
forgotten. This was a kind of private prologue to the ecclesiastical
drama which from the year 1871 upwards was enacted in most of the
pulpits of the country. Only the parsons instead of flinging their hats
upon the floor, beat their hands against the pulpit.

But what surprised me, a literary beginner, still more, was the gift I
discovered in myself of hypnotising, by my mere existence, an ever-
increasing number of my contemporaries till they became as though
possessed by a hatred which lasted, sometimes a number of years,
sometimes a whole life long, and was the essential determining factor in
their careers and actions. By degrees, in this negative manner, I
succeeded in engaging the attentions of more than a score of persons.
For the time being, I encountered the phenomenon in the person of one
solitary genius-mad individual. For a failure of a poet and philosopher,
with whom I had nothing to do, and who did not interest me in the least,
I became the one enemy it was his business to attack.

Rudolf Schmidt, who was a passionate admirer of Rasmus Nielsen, in whose
examination lectures he coached freshmen, was enraged beyond measure by
the objections, perfectly respectful, for that matter, in form, which I
had raised against one of the main points in Nielsen's philosophy. In
1866 he published a pamphlet on the subject; in 1867 a second, which, so
possessed was he by his fury against his opponent, he signed with the
latter's own initials, Gb. And from this time forth, for at least a
generation, it became this wretch's task in life to persecute me under
every possible pseudonym, and when his own powers were not sufficient,
to get up conspiracies against me. In particular, he did all he could
against me in Germany.

Meanwhile, he started a magazine in order to bring before the public
himself and the ideas he was more immediately serving, viz.: those of R.
Nielsen; and since this latter had of late drawn very much nearer to the
Grundtvigian way of thinking, partly also those of Grundtvig. The
magazine had three editors, amongst them R. Nielsen himself, and when
one of them, who was the critic of the _Fatherland_, suddenly left
the country, Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson took his place. The three names, R.
Nielsen, B. Bjoernson, and Rudolph Schmidt, formed a trinity whose
supremacy did not augur well for the success of a beginner in the paths
of literature, who had attacked the thinker among them for ideal
reasons, and who had been the object of violent attacks from the two
others. The magazine _Idea and Reality_, was, as might be expected,
sufficiently unfavourable to my cause.

The sudden disappearance of the critic of _The Fatherland_ from the
literary arena was, under the conditions of the time, an event. He had
no little talent, attracted by ideas and fancies that were sometimes
very telling, repelled by mannerisms and a curious, far-fetched style,
laid chief emphasis, in the spirit of the most modern Danish philosophy,
on the will, and always defended ethical standpoints. From the time of
Bjoernson's first appearance he had attached himself so enthusiastically
and inviolably to him that by the general public he was almost regarded
as Bjoernson's herald. At every opportunity he emphatically laid down
Bjoernson's importance and as a set-off fell upon those who might be
supposed to be his rivals. Ibsen, in particular, received severe
handling. His departure was thus a very hard blow for Bjoernson, but for
that matter, was also felt as a painful loss by those he opposed.


Not long after this departure, and immediately after the publication of
my long article on Goldschmidt, I received one day, to my surprise, a
letter of eight closely written pages from Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson, dated
April 15th, 1869.

What had called it forth was my remark, in that article, that Bjoernson,
like Goldschmidt, sometimes, when talent failed, pretended to have
attained the highest, pretended that obscurity was the equivalent of
profundity. When writing this, I was thinking of the obscure final
speech about God in Heaven in Bjoernson's _Mary Stuart_, which I
still regard as quite vague, pretentious though it be as it stands
there; however, it was an exaggeration to generalise the grievance, as I
had done, and Bjoernson was right to reply. He considered that I had
accused him of insincerity, though in this he was wrong; but for that
matter, with hot-tempered eloquence, he also denied my real contention.
His letter began:

Although I seldom read your writings, so that possibly I risk speaking
of something you have elsewhere developed more clearly, and thus making
a mistake, I nevertheless wish to make a determined protest against its
being called a characteristic of mine, in contrast to Oehlenschlaeger
(and Hauch!!), to strain my powers to reach what I myself only perceive
unclearly, and then intentionally to state it as though it were clear. I
am quite sure that I resemble Oehlenschlaeger in one thing, namely, that
the defects of my book are open to all, and are not glossed over with
any sort or kind of lie; anything unclear must for the moment have
seemed clear to me, as in his case. My motto has always been: "Be
faithful in _small_ things, and God shall make you ruler over great
things." And never, no, never, have I snatched after great material in
order to seem great, or played with words in order to seem clever, or
been silent, in order to appear deep. Never. The examples around me have
been appalling to me, and I am sure that they have been so because I
have from the very beginning been on my guard against lies. There are
passages in every work which will not yield immediately what one
impatiently demands of them;--and then I have always waited, never
tried; the thing has had to come itself unforced, and it is possible
that what I have received has been a deception; but I have believed in
it; to me it has been no deception. Before I finally conclude, I always,
it is true, go over again what I have written (as in the case of
_Synnoeve_, and _A Happy Boy, Between the Fights_, etc). I wish
to have the advantage of a better perception. Thus far, in what I have
gone through, I have seen weak places which I can no longer correct.
Lies I have never found.

Unfortunately one is often exposed to the danger of being untrue; but it
is in moments of surprise and absolute passion, when something happens
to one's eye or one's tongue, that one feels is half mad, but when the
beast of prey within one, which shrinks at nothing, is the stronger.
Untrue in one's beautiful, poetic calm, one's confessional silence, at
one's work, I think very few are.

This summing up, which does honour to Bjoernson and is not only a
striking self-verdict, but a valuable contribution to poetic psychology
in general, in its indication of the strength of the creative
imagination and its possibilities of error, was followed by a co-
ordinate attempt at a characterisation and appreciation of Goldschmidt:

You are likewise unjust to Goldschmidt on this point, that I know with
certainty. Goldschmidt is of a naive disposition, susceptible of every
noble emotion. It is true that he often stages these in a comic manner,
and what you say about that is true; he does the same in private life,
but you have not recognised the source of this. In the last instance, it
is not a question of what we think, but of what we do. Just as this, on
the whole, is an error that you fall persistently into, it is in
particular an error here, where, for instance, his two brothers, with
the same qualifications and with the same dual nature, have both
developed into characters, the one indeed into a remarkable personality.
But Goldschmidt began as a corsair captain at seventeen; his courage was
the courage behind a pen that he fancied was feared, his happiness that
of the flatterer, his dread that of being vapid; and there were many
other unfavourable circumstances, for that matter.... He is now striving
hard towards what he feels has, during his life, been wasted in his
ability, both moral and intellectual qualities, and for my part, I
respect this endeavour more than his decisive success within narrow

In this passage the distinction and contrast between contemplative life
and actual existence was quite in the Rasmus Nielsen spirit; the use
that was made of it here was strange. One would suppose that the example
adduced established that similar natural qualifications, similar family
and other conditions, in other words, the actual essential conditions of
life, were of small importance compared with one's mode of thought,
since the brothers could be so different; Bjoernson wished to establish,
hereby, that the mode of life was more important than the mode of
thought, although the former must depend on the latter. For the rest, he
alluded to Goldschmidt's weak points, even if in somewhat too superior a
manner, and without laying stress upon his great artistic importance,
with leniency and good-will.

But if, in other things he touched upon, he had an eye for essentials,
this failed him sadly when the letter proceeded to a characterisation of
the addressee, in which he mixed up true and false in inextricable
confusion. Amongst other things, he wrote:

Here, I doubtless touch upon a point that is distinctive of your
criticism. It is an absolute beauty worship. With that you can quickly
traverse our little literature and benefit no one greatly; for the poet
is only benefited by the man who approaches him with affection and from
his own standpoint; the other he does not understand, and the public
will, likely enough, pass with you through this unravelling of the
thousand threads, and believe they are growing; but no man or woman who
is sound and good lays down a criticism of this nature without a feeling
of emptiness.

I chanced to read one of your travel descriptions which really became a
pronouncement upon some of the greatest painters. It was their nature in
their works (not their history or their lives so much as their natural
dispositions) that you pointed out,--also the influence of their time
upon them, but this only in passing; and you compared these painters,
one with another. In itself, much of this mode of procedure is correct,
but the result is merely racy. A single one of them, seized largely and
affectionately, shown in such manner that the different paintings and
figures became a description of himself, but were simultaneously the
unfolding of a culture, would have been five times as understandable. A
contrast can be drawn in when opportunity arises, but that is not the
essential task. Yes, this is an illustration of the form of your
criticism. It is an everlasting, and often very painful, juxtaposition
of things appertaining and contrasting, but just as poetry itself is an
absorption in the one thing that it has extracted from the many, so
comprehension of it is dependent on the same conditions. The individual
work or the individual author whom you have treated of, you have in the
same way not brought together, but disintegrated, and the whole has
become merely a piquant piece of effectiveness. Hitherto one might have
said that it was at least good-natured; but of late there have
supervened flippant expressions, paradoxical sentences, crude
definitions, a definite contumacy and disgust, which is now and again
succeeded by an outburst of delight over the thing that is peculiarly
Danish, or peculiarly beautiful. I cannot help thinking of P.L. Moeller,
as I knew him in Paris.

There are a thousand things between Heaven and Earth that you understand
better than I. But for that very reason you can listen to me. It seems
to me now as if the one half of your powers were undoing what the other
half accomplishes. I, too, am a man with intellectual interests, but I
feel no cooperation. Might there not be other tasks that you were more
fitted for than that of criticism? I mean, that would be less of a
temptation to you, and would _build_ up on your personality, at the
same time as you yourself were building? It strikes me that even if you
do choose criticism, it should be more strongly in the direction of our
educating responsibilities and less as the arranger of technicalities,
the spyer out of small things, the dragger together of all and
everything which can be brought forward as a witness for or against the
author, which is all frightfully welcome in a contemporary critical
epidemic in Copenhagen, but, God help me, is nothing and accomplishes

This part of the letter irritated me intensely, partly by the mentor's
tone assumed in it, partly by a summing up of my critical methods which
was founded simply and solely on the reading of three or four articles,
more especially those on Rubens and Goldschmidt, and which quite missed
the point. I was far from feeling that I had been understood, and for
that reason warned against extremes; on the contrary, I saw myself only
caricatured, without even wit or humour, and could not forget that the
man who had sketched this picture of me had done his utmost to injure
me. And he compared me with P.L. Moeller!

The fact that the conclusion of the letter contained much that was
conciliatory and beautiful consequently did not help matters. Bjoernson

When you write about the Jews, although I am not in agreement with you,
_altogether_ in agreement, you yet seem to me to touch upon a
domain where you might have much to offer us, many beautiful prospects
to open to us. In the same way, when you interpret Shakespeare (not when
you make poetry by the side of him), when you tranquilly expound, I seem
to see the beginnings of greater works, in any case of powers which I
could imagine essentially contributing to the introduction into our
culture of greater breadth of view, greater moral responsibility, more

When I now read these words, I am obliged to transport myself violently
back, into the feelings and to the intellectual standpoint that were
mine at the time, in order to understand how they could to such a pitch
incense me. It was not only that, like all young people of any account,
I was irritable, sensitive and proud, and unwilling to be treated as a
pupil; but more than that, as the way of youth is, I confused what I
knew myself capable of accomplishing with what I had already
accomplished; felt myself rich, exuberantly rich, already, and was
indignant at perceiving myself deemed still so small.

But the last straw was a sentence which followed:

I should often have liked to talk all this over with you, when last I
was in Copenhagen, but I noticed I was so pried after by gossips that I
gave it up.

The last time Bjoernson was in Copenhagen he had written that article
against me. Besides, I had been told that some few times he had read my
first articles aloud in public in friends' houses, and made fun of their
forced and tyro-like wording. And now he wanted me to believe that he
had at that time been thinking of visiting me, in order to come to an
understanding with me. And worse still, the fear of gossip had
restrained him! This hero of will-power so afraid of a little gossip! He
might go on as he liked now, I had done with him. He did go on, both
cordially and gracefully, but condescendingly, quite incapable of seeing
how wounding the manner of his advances was. He wished to make advances
to me and yet maintain a humiliating attitude of condescension:

There are not many of us in literature who are in earnest; the few who
are ought not to be daunted by the accidental separation that opposed
opinions can produce, when there is a large field for mutual
understanding and co-operation. I sometimes get violently irate for a
moment; if this in lesser men, in whom there really is something base,
brings about a lifelong separation, it does not greatly afflict me. But
I should be very sorry if it should influence the individuals in whom I
feel there are both ability and will. And as far as you are concerned, I
have such a strong feeling that you must be standing at a parting of the
ways, that, by continuing your path further, you will go astray, that I
want to talk to you, and consequently am speaking from my heart to you
now. If you do not understand, I am sorry; that is all I can say.

In the Summer I am going to Finmark, and involuntarily, as I write this,
the thought occurs to me what a journey it would be for you; away from
everything petty and artificial to a scenery which in its magnificent
loneliness is without parallel in the world, and where the wealth of
birds above us and fish beneath us (whales, and shoals of herrings, cod
and capelans often so close together that you can take them up in your
hands, or they press against the sides of the boat) are marvel upon
marvel, in the light of a Sun that does not set, while human beings up
there live quiet and cowed by Nature. If you will come with me, and meet
me, say, at Trondhjem, I know that you would not regret it. And then I
should get conversation again; here there are not many who hit upon just
that which I should like them to. Think about it.

A paragraph relating to Magdalene Thoresen followed. But what is here
cited is the essential part of the letter. Had its recipient known
Bjoernson better, he would in this have found a foundation to build upon.
But as things were, I altogether overlooked the honestly meant
friendliness in it and merely seized upon the no small portion of it
that could not do other than wound. My reply, icy, sharp and in the
deeper sense of the word, worthless, was a refusal. I did not believe in
Bjoernson, saw in the letter nothing but an attempt to use me as a
critic, now that he had lost his former advocate in the Press. The
prospect of the journey to the North did not tempt me; in Bjoernson's
eyes it would have been Thor's journey with Loki, and I neither was Loki
nor wished to be.

But even had I been capable of rising to a more correct and a fuller
estimate of Bjoernson's character, there was too much dividing us at this
time for any real friendship to have been established. Bjoernson was then
still an Orthodox Protestant, and in many ways hampered by his youthful
impressions; I myself was still too brusque to be able to adapt myself
to so difficult and masterful a personality.

Eight years elapsed before the much that separated me from Bjoernson
crumbled away. But then, when of his own accord he expressed his regret
on a public occasion at the rupture between us, and spoke of me with
unprejudiced comprehension and good-will, I seized with warmth and
gratitude the hand stretched out to me. A hearty friendship, bringing
with it an active and confidential correspondence, was established
between us and remained unshaken for the next ten years, when it broke
down, this time through no fault of mine, but through distrust on
Bjoernson's part, just as our intimacy had been hindered the first time
through distrust on mine.

The year 1869 passed in steady hard work. Among the many smaller
articles I wrote, one with the title of _The Infinitely Small and the
Infinitely Great in Poetry_, starting with a representment of
Shakespeare's Harry Percy, contained a criticism of the hitherto
recognised tendency of Danish dramatic poetry and pointed out into the
future. The paper on H.C. Andersen, which came into being towards
midsummer, and was read aloud in a clover field to a solitary listener,
was representative of my critical abilities and aims at that date. I had
then known Andersen socially for a considerable time. My cordial
recognition of his genius drew us more closely together; he often came
to see me and was very ready to read his new works aloud to me. It is
hardly saying too much to declare that this paper secured me his

The fundamental principles of the essay were influenced by Taine, the
art philosopher I had studied most deeply, and upon whom I had written a
book that was to be my doctor's thesis. Lightly and rapidly though my
shorter articles came into being, this larger task was very long in
hand. Not that I had little heart for my work; on the contrary, no
question interested me more than those on which my book hinged; but
there were only certain of them with which, as yet, I was equal to

First and foremost came the question of the nature of the producing
mind, the possibility of showing a connection between its faculties and
deriving them from one solitary dominating faculty, which would thus
necessarily reveal itself in every aspect of the mind. It puzzled me,
for example, how I was to find the source whence Pascal's taste, both
for mathematics and religious philosophy, sprang. Next came the question
of the possibility of a universally applicable scientific method of
criticism, regarded as intellectual optics. If one were to define the
critic's task as that of understanding, through the discovery and
elucidation of the dependent and conditional contingencies that occur in
the intellectual world, then there was a danger that he might approve
everything, not only every form and tendency of art that had arisen
historically, but each separate work within each artistic section. If it
were no less the critic's task to distinguish between the genuine and
the spurious, he must at any rate possess a technical standard by which
to determine greater or lesser value, or he must be so specially and
extraordinarily gifted that his instinct and tact estimate infallibly.

Further, there was the question of genius, the point on which Taine's
theory roused decisive opposition in me. He regarded genius as a summing
up, not as a new starting-point; according to him it was the assemblage
of the original aptitudes of a race and of the peculiarities of a period
in which these aptitudes were properly able to display themselves. He
overlooked the originality of the man of genius, which could not be
explained from his surroundings, the new element which, in genius, was
combined with the summarising of surrounding particles. Before, when
studying Hegel, I had been repelled by the suggestion that what spoke to
us through the artist was only the universally valid, the universal
mind, which, as it were, burnt out the originality of the individual. In
Taine's teaching, nation and period were the new (although more
concrete) abstractions in the place of the universally valid; but here,
too, the particularity of the individual was immaterial. The kernel of
my work was a protest against this theory.

I was even more actively interested in the fundamental question raised
by a scientific view of history. For some years I had been eagerly
searching Comte and Littre, Buckle, Mill and Taine for their opinions on
the philosophy of History. Here, too, though in another form, the
question of the importance of the individual versus the masses presented
itself. Statistics had proved to what extent conscious actions were
subordinated to uniform laws. We could foresee from one year to another
how many murders would be committed and how many with each kind of
instrument. The differences between men and men neutralised each other,
if we took the average of a very large number. But this did not prove
that the individual was not of considerable importance. If the victory
of Salamis depended on Themistocles, then the entire civilisation of
Europe henceforth depended on him.

Another aspect of the question was: Did the consistent determinism of
modern Science, the discovery of an unalterable interdependency in the
intellectual, as in the physical worlds, allow scope for actions
proceeding otherwise than merely illusorily from the free purpose or
determination of the individual? Very difficult the question was, and I
did not feel confident of solving it; but it was some consolation to
reflect that the doubt as to the possibility of demonstrating a full
application of the law in the domain in which chance has sway, and
Ethics its sphere, was comparatively infinitesimal in the case of those
domains in which men make themselves felt by virtue of genius or talent
as producers of literary and artistic works. Here, where natural gifts
and their necessary deployment were of such extraordinary weight, the
probability of a demonstration of natural laws was, of course, much

The general fundamental question was: Given a literature, a philosophy,
an art, or a branch of art, what is the attitude of mind that produces
it? What are its sufficing and necessary conditions? What, for instance,
causes England in the sixteenth century to acquire a dramatic poetry of
the first rank, or Holland in the seventeenth century a painting art of
the first rank, without any of the other branches of art simultaneously
bearing equally fine fruit in the same country?

My deliberations resulted, for the time being, in the conviction that
all profound historical research was psychical research.

That old piece of work, revised, as it now is, has certainly none but
historic interest; but for a doctor's thesis, it is still a tolerably
readable book and may, at any rate, introduce a beginner to reflection
upon great problems.

After the fundamental scientific questions that engaged my attention, I
was most interested in artistic style. There was, in modern Danish
prose, no author who unreservedly appealed to me; in German Heinrich
Kleist, and in French Merimee, were the stylists whom I esteemed most.
The latter, in fact, it seemed to me was a stylist who, in unerring
sureness, terseness and plasticism, excelled all others. He had
certainly not much warmth or colour, but he had a sureness of line equal
to that of the greatest draughtsmen of Italian art. His aridity was
certainly not winning, and, in reading him, I frequently felt a lack of
breadth of view and horizon, but the compelling power of his line-
drawing captivated me. When my doctor's thesis was finished, towards the
middle of December, 1869, both it and the collection of articles bearing
the name _Criticisms and Portraits_ were placed in the printer's
hands. In the beginning of 1870 two hitherto unprinted pieces were
added, of which one was a paper written some time before on Kamma
Rahbek, which had been revised, the other, a new one on Merimee, which
in general shows what at that time I admired in style.

It had long been settled that as soon as I had replied to the critics of
my thesis I should start on prolonged travels, the real educational
travels of a young man's life. I had a little money lying ready, a small
bursary, and a promise of a travelling allowance from the State, which
promise, however, was not kept. This journey had for a long time been
haunting my fancy. I cherished an ardent wish to see France again, but
even more especially to go to Italy and countries still farther South.
My hope of catching a glimpse of Northern Africa was only fulfilled
thirty-five years later; but I got as far as Italy, which was the actual
goal of my desires. I knew enough of the country, its history from
ancient days until then, and was sufficiently acquainted with its Art
from Roman times upwards and during the Renaissance, to be regarded as
passed for intellectual consecration in the South.

When the thesis was done with and the printing of the second book was
nearing completion, not anxiety to travel, but melancholy and heavy-
heartedness at the thought of my departure, gained the upper hand. It
had been decided that I was to remain away at least a year, and it was
less to myself than to others whom I must necessarily leave behind, that
the time seemed immeasurably long. Professor Schioedte advised me rather
to take several short journeys than one long one; but that was
impracticable. I wanted to get quite away from the home atmosphere. As,
however, there were some who thought of my journey with disquiet and
dread, and from whom it was difficult for me to tear myself, I put off
my departure as long as I could. At last the remnant of work that still
bound me to Copenhagen was finished, and then all the new and enriching
prospects my stay in foreign countries was to bring me shone in a golden
light. Full of undaunted hope, I set out on my travels at the beginning
of April, 1870.


Hamburg--My Second Fatherland--Ernest Hello--_Le Docteur Noir_--
Taine--Renan--Marcelin--Gleyre--Taine's Friendship--Renan at Home--
Philarete Chasles' Reminiscences--_Le Theatre Francais_--Coquelin
--Bernhardt--Beginnings of _Main Currents_--The Tuileries--John
Stuart Mill--London--Philosophical Studies--London and Paris Compared--
Antonio Gallenga and His Wife--Don Juan Prim--Napoleon III--London
Theatres--Gladstone and Disraeli in Debate--Paris on the Eve of War--
First Reverses--Flight from Paris--Geneva, Switzerland--Italy--Pasquale
Villari--Vinnie Ream's Friendship--Roman Fever--Henrik Ibsen's
Influence--Scandinavians in Rome.


The first thing that impressed me was Hamburg, and by that I mean the
European views prevalent there. At that time, doubtless mainly for
national reasons, Denmark hated Hamburg. Different Danish authors had
recently written about the town, and in as depreciatory a strain as they
could. The description of one amounted to an assertion that in Hamburg
people only talked of two things, money and women; that of another
commenced: "Of all the places I have ever seen in my life, Hamburg is
the most hideous."

The situation of the town could not be compared with that of Copenhagen,
but the Alster quarter was attractive, the architecture and the street
life not uninteresting. What decided me, however, was not the externals
of the town, but the spirit I noticed pervading the conversation. The
idea underlying things was that a young man must first and foremost
learn to keep himself well and comfortably; if he could not do this in
Hamburg, then as soon as possible he must set off to some place across
the sea, to Rio, or New York, to the Argentine, or Cape Colony, and
there make his way and earn a fortune. The sons of the families I was
invited to visit, or heard talked about, had long been away; in the
houses I went to, the head of the family had seen other parts of the
world. The contrast with Copenhagen was obvious; there the young sons of
the middle classes were a burden on their families sometimes until they
were thirty, had no enterprise, no money of their own to dispose of,
were often glued, as it were, to the one town, where there was no
promotion to look forward to and no wide prospect of any sort.

It was a long time since I had been so much struck by anything as by an
expression that a Hamburg lady, who had been to Copenhagen and had
stayed there some time, used about the young Danish men, namely, that
they had _l'apparence chetive_. I tried to persuade her that life
in Copenhagen had only accidentally appeared so wretched to her; but I
did not convince her in the least. She demonstrated to me, by numerous
examples, to what an extent enterprise was lacking in Denmark, and I was
obliged to restrict myself to explaining that the tremendous pressure of
political pettiness and weakness had brought a general slackness with
it, without people feeling or suspecting it, and had robbed nearly every
one of daring and success. The result of the conversation was that
Denmark was shown to me in a fresh light.

A Hamburg merchant who had lived for a long time in Mexico invited me to
dinner, and at his house I had the same impression of apparent
happiness, comfort, enterprise and wide outlook, in contrast to the
cares and the narrowness at home, where only the few had travelled far
or collected material which might by comparison offer new points of view
and give one a comprehensive experience of life. My psychological
education in Danish literature, with its idolising of "thoroughness" had
imprinted on my mind that whoever thoroughly understood how to observe a
man, woman and child in a Copenhagen backyard had quite sufficient
material whence to brew a knowledge of human nature. It now dawned upon
me that comparative observation of a Mexican and a North German family,
together with their opinions and prejudices, might nevertheless
considerably advance one's knowledge of human nature, should such
comparisons constantly obtrude themselves upon one.

The same man let fall an observation which set me thinking. When the
conversation turned upon the strained relations between France and
Prussia since the battle of Koeniggratz, and I expressed myself confident
that, in the event of a war, France would be victorious, as she
generally was victorious everywhere, he expressed well-supported doubts.
Prussia was a comparatively young state, extremely well organised and
carefully prepared for war; antiquated routine held great sway in the
French army; the Emperor himself, the esteem in which he was held, and
his management were on the down grade. These were words that I had never
heard in Denmark. The possibility of France being defeated in a war with
Prussia was not even entertained there. This merchant showed me an
original photograph of the execution of the Emperor Maximilian, taken on
the spot a moment before the word to fire was given, and a second taken
immediately afterwards. The calm bearing of the Emperor and the two
generals compelled admiration. This was the first time I had seen
photography taken into the service of history.

In the Hamburg Zoological Gardens I was fascinated by the aquarium, with
its multitudes of aquatic animals and fish. There, for the first time in
my life, I saw an elephant, and did not tire of gazing at the mighty
beast. I was struck by the strange caprice with which the great Being we
call Nature goes to work, or, more correctly, by the contrast between
the human point of view and Nature's mode of operations. To us, the
elephant's trunk was burlesque, its walk risibly clumsy; the eagle and
the kite seemed to us, as they sat, to have a severe appearance and a
haughty glance; the apes, picking lice from one another and eating the
vermin, were, to our eyes, contemptible and ridiculous at the same time;
but Nature took everything equally seriously, neither sought nor avoided
beauty, and to her one being was not more central than another. That
must be deemed Nature's central point which is equidistant from the
lowest and from the highest being; it was not impossible, for instance,
that the _harefish_, a great, thick, odd-looking creature, was the
real centre of terrestrial existence, in the same way as our celestial
sphere has its centre, through which a line reaches the pole of the
zodiac in the constellation of the Dragon. And I smiled as I thought of
R. Nielsen and his pupils always speaking as if they stood on the most
intimate footing with the "central point" of existence, and pouring
contempt on others who, it was to be supposed, could not approach it.

I was very unfavourably impressed in Hamburg by German drama and German
dramatic art.

At the town theatre, Hebbel's _Judith_ was being performed, with
Clara Ziegler in the leading part. At that time this lady enjoyed a
considerable reputation in Germany, and was, too, a tall, splendid-
looking female, with a powerful voice, a good mimic, and all the rest of
it, but a mere word-machine. The acting showed up the want of taste in
the piece. Holofernes weltered knee-deep in gore and bragged
incessantly; Judith fell in love with his "virility," and when he had
made her "the guardian of his slumbers" murdered him, from a long
disremembered loyalty to the God of Israel.

At the Thalia Theatre, Raupach's _The School of Life_ was being
produced, a lot of silly stuff, the theme of it, for that matter, allied
to the one dealt with later by Drachmann in _Once upon a Time_. A
Princess is hard-hearted and capricious. To punish her, the King, her
father, shuts a man into her bedroom, makes a feigned accusation against
her, and actually drives her out of the castle. She becomes a waiting-
maid, and passes through various stages of civil life. The King of
Navarra, whose suit she had haughtily rejected, disguised as a
goldsmith, marries her, then arrays himself in silks and velvets, to
tempt her to infidelity. When she refuses, he allows every possible
injustice to be heaped upon her, to try her, makes her believe that the
King, on a false accusation, has had her husband's eyes put out, and
then himself goes about with a bandage before his eyes, and lets her
beg. She believes everything and agrees to everything, until at last,
arrived at honour and glory, she learns that it has all been only play-
acting, trial, and education.

This nonsense was exactly on a par with taste in Germany at the time,
which was undeniably considerably below the level of that in France and
Denmark, and it was acted by a group of actors, some very competent, at
the chief theatre of Hamburg. Slowly though business life pulsated in
Denmark, we were superior to Germany in artistic perception.

The low stage of artistic development at which Hamburg had then arrived
could not, however, efface the impression its superiority over
Copenhagen in other respects had made upon me. Take it all together, my
few days in Hamburg were well spent.


And then I set foot once more in the country which I regarded as my
second fatherland, and the overflowing happiness of once more feeling
French ground under my feet returned undiminished and unchanged. I had
had all my letters sent to Mlle. Louise's address, so fetched them
shortly after my arrival and saw the girl again. Her family invited me
to dinner several times during the very first week, and I was associated
with French men and women immediately upon my arrival.

They were well-brought-up, good-natured, hospitable bourgeois, very
narrow in their views. Not in the sense that they took no interest in
politics and literature, but in that questions for them were decided
once and for all in the clerical spirit. They did not regard this as a
party standpoint, did not look upon themselves as adherents of a party;
their way of thinking was the right one; those who did not agree with
them held opinions they ought to be ashamed of, and which they probably,
in private, were ashamed of holding and expressing.

Mlle. Louise had a cousin whom she used to speak of as a warm-hearted
man with peculiar opinions, eager and impetuous, who would like to make
the acquaintance of her friend from the North. The aunts called him a
passionate Catholic, and an energetic writer in the service of the
Church Militant. Shortly after my arrival, I met him at dinner. He was a
middle-aged, pale, carelessly dressed man with ugly, irregular features,
and a very excitable manner. With him came his wife, who though pale and
enthusiastic like himself, yet looked quite terrestrial. He introduced
himself as Ernest Hello, contributor to Veuillot's then much talked of
Romish paper, _L'Univers_, which, edited with no small talent by a
noted stylist, adopted all sorts of abusive methods as weapons in every
feud in which the honour of the Church was involved. It was against
Veuillot that Augier had just aimed the introduction to his excellent
comedy, _Le Fils de Giboyer_, and he made no secret of the fact
that in the Deodat mentioned in the piece he had had this writer of holy
abuse in his mind. Hello was in everything Veuillot's vassal.

He was one of the martial believers who despised and hated the best free
research men, and who knew himself in a position to confute them. He
possessed some elements of culture, and had early had thoroughly drilled
into him what, in comparison with the views of later times on History
and Religion, was narrow and antiquated in Voltaire's education, and for
this reason regarded, not only Voltaire's attack on the Church, but all
subsequent philosophy inimical to the Church, as belonging to a bygone
age. He was a fanatic, and there was a sacristy odour about all that he
said. But there was in his disposition an enthusiastic admiration for
weakness in fighting against external strength, and for courage that
expressed itself in sheer defiance of worldly prudence, that made him
feel kindly towards the young Dane. Denmark's taking up arms, with its
two million inhabitants, against a great power like Prussia, roused his
enthusiasm. "It is great, it is Spartan!" he exclaimed. It must
certainly be admitted that this human sympathy was not a prominent
characteristic, and he wearied me with his hateful verdicts over all
those whom I, and by degrees, all Europe, esteemed and admired in

As an instance of the paradoxicalness to which Huysmans many years later
became addicted, the latter tried to puff up Hello as being a man of
remarkable intellect; and an instance of the want of independence with
which the new Catholic movement was carried on in Denmark is to be found
in the fact that the organ of Young Denmark, _The Tower_, could
declare: "Hello is one of the few whom all men of the future are agreed
to bow before.... Hello was,--not only a Catholic burning with religious
ardour,--but a genius; these two things explain everything."

When Hello invited me to his house, I regarded it as my duty to go, that
I might learn as much as possible, and although his circle was
exceedingly antipathetic to me, I did not regret it; the spectacle was
highly instructive.

Next to Hello himself, who, despite his fanaticism and restlessness,
impressed one as very inoffensive at bottom, and not mischievous if one
steered clear of such names as Voltaire or Renan, the chief member of
his circle was the black doctor, (_le Docteur noir_,) so much
talked of in the last years of the Empire, and who is even alluded to in
Taine's _Graindorge_. His real name was Vries. He was a negro from
the Dutch West Indies, a veritable bull, with a huge body and a black,
bald physiognomy, made to stand outside a tent at a fair, and be his own
crier to the public. His conversation was one incessant brag, in
atrocious French. Although he had lived seventeen years in France, he
spoke almost unintelligibly.

He persuaded himself, or at least others, that he had discovered
perpetual motion, vowed that he had made a machine which, "by a simple
mechanism," could replace steam power and had been declared practicable
by the first engineers in Paris; but of course he declined to speak
freely about it. Columbus and Fulton only were his equals; he knew all
the secrets of Nature. He had been persecuted--in 1859 he had been
imprisoned for eleven months, on a charge of quackery--because all great
men were persecuted; remember our Lord Jesus Christ! He himself was the
greatest man living. _Moi vous dire le plus grand homme d'universe_.
Hello and the ladies smiled admiringly at him, and never grew tired of
listening to him. This encouraged him to monopolise the conversation:
He, Vries, was a man possessed of courage and wisdom; he understood
Phrenology, Allopathy, Homoeopathy, Engineering Science, Metereology
--like Moliere's doctors and Holberg's Oldfux. His greatest and most
special gift was that of curing cancer. Like writing-masters, who hang
out specimens of how people wrote when they came to them, and of their
caligraphy after they had benefited by their instruction, he had his
cancer patients photographed before and after his treatment, looking
ghastly the first time, and as fresh as a flower the second, and these
pictures hung on view in his house. No wonder, therefore, that Napoleon
III--so Vries said--had his portrait in an album containing, besides,
only portraits of European sovereigns.

He pretended that he had made many important prophecies. This was a bond
between him and Hello, who claimed the same extraordinary power, and had
foretold all sorts of singular events. He performed miraculous cures;
this appealed to Hello, who was suspicious of all rational Science and
ready to believe any mortal thing. He could read everybody's characters
in their faces. This was a pretext for the most barefaced flattery of
Hello, his wife, and their friends of both sexes, and of course
everything was swallowed with alacrity. To me he said: "Monsieur is
gentle, very calm, very indulgent, and readily forgives an injury."

Hideous though he was, his powerful brutality had a great effect on the
ladies of the circle. They literally hung upon his words. He seized them
by the wrists, and slid his black paws up their bare arms. The married
women whispered languishingly: "You have a marvellous power over women."
The husbands looked on smilingly.

Now when Hello and he and their friends and the ladies began to talk
about religious matters and got steam up, it was a veritable witches'
Sabbath, and no mistake, every voice being raised in virulent cheap Jack
denunciation of freedom, and common sense. Satan himself had dictated
Voltaire's works; now Voltaire was burning in everlasting fire.
Unbelievers ought to be exterminated; it would serve them right. Renan
ought to be hanged on the first tree that would bear him; the Black
Doctor even maintained that in Manila he would have been shot long ago.
It was always the Doctor who started the subject of the persecution of
heretics. Hello himself persecuted heretics with patronising scorn, but
was already ready to drop into a hymn of praise to the Madonna.

I had then read two of Hello's books, _Le Style_ and _M. Renan,
L'Allemagne et l'Atheisme au 19me Siecle_. Such productions are
called books, because there is no other name for them. As a matter of
fact, idle talk and galimatias of the sort are in no wise literature.
Hello never wrote anything but Roman Catholic sermons, full of
theological sophistries and abuse of thinking men. In those years his
books, with their odour of incense, made the small, flat inhabitants of
the sacristy wainscotting venture out of their chinks in the wall in
delight; but they obtained no applause elsewhere.

It was only after his death that it could occur to a morbid seeker after
originality, with a bitter almond in place of a heart, like Huysmans, to
make his half-mad hero, Des Esseintes, who is terrified of the light,
find satisfaction in the challenges to common sense that Hello wrote.
Hello was a poor wretch who, in the insane conviction that he himself
was a genius, filled his writings with assertions concerning the
marvellous, incomprehensible nature of genius, and always took up the
cudgels on its behalf. During the Empire, his voice was drowned. It was
only a score of years later that the new Catholic reaction found it to
their advantage to take him at his word and see in him the genius that
he had given himself out to be. He was as much a genius as the madman in
the asylum is the Emperor.


A few days after my arrival, I called upon Taine and was cordially
received. He presented me with one of his books and promised me his
great work, _De l'Intelligence_, which was to come out in a few
days, conversed with me for an hour, and invited me to tea the following
evening. He had been married since I had last been at his house, and his
wife, a young, clear-skinned lady with black plaits, brown eyes and an
extremely graceful figure, was as fresh as a rose, and talked with the
outspoken freedom of youth, though expressing herself in carefully
selected words.

After a few days, Taine, who was generally very formal with strangers,
treated me with conspicuous friendliness. He offered at once to
introduce me to Renan, and urgently advised me to remain six months in
Paris, in order to master the language thoroughly, so that I might
enlighten Frenchmen on the state of things in the North, as well as
picture the French to my fellow-countrymen. Why should I not make French
my auxiliary language, like Turgenieff and Hillebrandt!

Taine knew nothing of German belles lettres. As far as philosophy was
concerned, he despised German Aesthetics altogether, and laughed at me
for believing in "Aesthetics" at all, even one day introducing me to a
stranger as "A young Dane who does not believe in much, but is weak
enough to believe in Aesthetics." I was not precisely overburdened by
the belief. But a German Aesthetic, according to Taine's definition, was
a man absolutely devoid of artistic perception and sense of style, who
lived only in definitions. If you took him to the theatre to see a sad
piece, he would tear his hair with delight, and exclaim: "_Voila das

Of the more modern German authors, Taine knew only Heine, of whom he was
a passionate admirer and whom, by reason of his intensity of feeling, he
compared with Dante. A poem like the _Pilgrimage to Kevlaar_ roused
his enthusiasm. Goethe's shorter poems, on the other hand, he could not
appreciate, chiefly no doubt because he did not know German sufficiently
well. He was not even acquainted with the very best of Goethe's short
things, and one day that I asked him to read one poem aloud, the words
in his mouth rang very French.

_Lieber dur Laydenn moecht ee mee schlag'e, als so feel Froedenn des
Laybengs airtrah'ge_, was intended to be--

Lieber durch Leiden,
Moecht ich mich schlagen
Als so viel Freuden
Des Lebens ertragen.

Goethe's prose he did not consider good, but heavy and prolix, and
lacking in descriptive power. He would praise Voltaire's prose at his
expense. "You perceive the figure and its movements far more clearly,"
he said. The German romanticists disgusted him; their style, also, was
too inartistic for him (_ils ne savent pas ecrire, cela me degoute

I frequently met friends at his house, amongst others, Marcelin, who had
been his friend from boyhood, and upon whom, many years later, he wrote
a melancholy obituary. This man, the proprietor of that supremely
worldly paper, _La Vie Parisienne_, was a powerful, broad-
shouldered, ruddy-cheeked man, who looked the incarnation of health and
very unlike one's preconception of the editor of the most frivolous and
fashionable weekly in Paris. He was a draughtsman and an author, had
studied the history of the last few centuries in engravings, and himself
owned a collection of no fewer than 300,000. What Taine had most admired
in him was the iron will with which, left, at nineteen years of age,
penniless, and defectively educated, as head of his family, he had kept
his mother and brothers and sisters by his work. Next to that Taine
admired his earnestness. Marcelin, who was generally looked upon as
belonging to gay Paris, was a solitary-minded man, an imaginative
recreator of the peoples of the past, as they were and went about, of
their ways and customs. He it was who opened Taine's eyes to the wealth
of contributions to history locked up in collections of engravings, more
especially perhaps as regarded people's external appearance, and what
the exterior revealed. Another friend who came to Taine at all sorts of
times was Gleyre, the old painter, who had been born in French
Switzerland, but was otherwise a Parisian. And he was not the only
deeply idealistic artist with whom Taine was connected in the bonds of
friendship. Although a fundamental element of Taine's nature drew him
magnetically to the art that was the expression of strength, tragic or
carnal strength, a swelling exuberance of life, there was yet room in
his soul for sympathy with all artistic endeavour, even the purely
emotional. That which drew him to the idealistic painters was, at
bottom, the same quality as drew him to Beethoven and Chopin.

Gleyre's best-known picture is the painting in the Louvre, somewhat weak
in colouring, but showing much feeling, a Nile subject representing a
man sitting on the banks of the river and watching the dreams of his
youth, represented as beautiful women, fleeing from him on a decorated
dahabeah, which is disappearing. The title is _Lost Illusions_.
There is more strength in the painting, much reproduced in engraving, of
a Roman army, conquered by Divico the Helvetian, passing under the yoke
--a picture which, as an expression of the national pride of the Swiss,
has been placed in the Museum at Lausanne.

Still, it was the man himself, rather than his pictures, that Taine
thought so much of. Intellectually, Taine was in his inmost heart an
admirer of the Italian and the English Renaissance, when most pagan and
most unrestrained; his intellectual home was the Venice of the sixteenth
century; he would have been in his right place at one of the festivals
painted by Veronese, and should have worn the rich and tasteful costume
of that period. But socially, and as a citizen, he was quite different,
was affectionate and subdued and calm, excessively conventional;
temperate in all his judgments, as in his life.

If I succeeded in winning his good-will, it was most emphatically not
because I had written a book about him, which, for that matter, he could
not understand; he barely glanced through it; he read, at most, the
appreciative little review that Gaston Paris did me the honour to write
upon it in the _Revue Critique_. But it appealed to him that I had
come to France from pure love of knowledge, that I might become
acquainted with men and women and intellectual life, and that I had
spent my youth in study.

He grew fond of me, advised me as a father or an elder brother might
have done, and smiled at my imprudences--as for instance when I almost
killed myself by taking too strong a sleeping draught--(_vous etes
imprudent, c'est de votre age_). He sometimes reproached me with not
jotting down every day, as he did, whatever had struck me; he talked to
me about his work, about the projected Essay on Schiller that came to
nothing on account of the war, of his _Notes sur l'Angleterre_,
which he wrote in a little out-of-the-way summer-house containing
nothing save the four bare whitewashed walls, but a little table and a
chair. He introduced into the book a few details that I had mentioned to
him after my stay in England.

When we walked in the garden at his country-house at Chatenay, he
sometimes flung his arm round my neck--an act which roused great
astonishment in the Frenchmen present, who could scarcely believe their
eyes. They knew how reserved he usually was.

It quite irritated Taine that the Danish Minister did nothing for me,
and introduced me nowhere, although he had had to procure me a free pass
to the theatre. Again and again he reverted to this, though I had never
mentioned either the Minister or the Legation to him. But the
revolutionary blood in him was excited at what he regarded as a slight
to intellectual aristocracy. "What do you call a man like that? A
Junker?" I said no. "Never mind! it is all the same. One feels that in
your country you have had no revolution like ours, and know nothing
about equality. A fellow like that, who has not made himself known in
any way whatever, looks down on you as unworthy to sit at his table and
does not move a finger on your behalf, although that is what he is there
for. When I am abroad, they come at once from the French Embassy to
visit me, and open to me every house to which they have admittance. I am
a person of very small importance in comparison with Benedetti, but
Benedetti comes to see me as often as I will receive him. We have no
lording of it here."

These outbursts startled me, first, because I had never in the least
expected or even wished either to be received by the Danish Minister or
to be helped by him; secondly, because it revealed to me a wide
difference between the point of view in the Romance countries, in France
especially, and that in the North. In Denmark, I had never had the
entree to Court or to aristocratic circles, nor have I ever acquired it
since, though, for that matter, I have not missed it in the least. But
in the Romance countries, where the aristocratic world still
occasionally possesses some wit and education, it is taken as a matter
of course that talent is a patent of nobility, and, to the man who has
won himself a name, all doors are open, indeed, people vie with one
another to secure him. That a caste division like that in the North was
quite unknown there, I thus learnt for the first time.


Through Taine, I very soon made the acquaintance of Renan, whose
personality impressed me very much, grand and free of mind as he was,
without a trace of the unctuousness that one occasionally meets in his
books, yet superior to the verge of paradox.

He was very inaccessible, and obstinately refused to see people. But if
he were expecting you, he would spare you several hours of his valuable

His house was furnished with exceeding simplicity. On one wall of his
study hung two Chinese water-colours and a photograph of Gerome's
_Cleopatra before Caesar_; on the opposite wall, a very beautiful
photograph of what was doubtless an Italian picture of the Last Day.
That was all the ornamentation. On his table, there always lay a Virgil
and a Horace in a pocket edition, and for a long time a French
translation of Sir Walter Scott.

What surprised me most in Renan's bearing was that there was nothing
solemn about it and absolutely nothing sentimental. He impressed one as
being exceptionally clever and a man that the opposition he had met with
had left as it found him. He enquired about the state of things in the
North. When I spoke, without reserve, of the slight prospect that
existed of my coming to the front with my opinions, he maintained that
victory was sure. (_Vous l'emporterez! vous l'emporterez_!) Like
all foreigners, he marvelled that the three Scandinavian countries did
not try to unite, or at any rate to form an indissoluble Union. In the
time of Gustavus Adolphus, he said, they had been of some political
importance; since then they had retired completely from the historical
stage. The reason for it must very probably be sought for in their
insane internecine feuds.

Renan used to live, at that time, from the Spring onwards, at his house
in the country, at Sevres. So utterly unaffected was the world-renowned
man, then already forty-seven years of age, that he often walked from
his house to the station with me, and wandered up and down the platform
till the train came.

His wife, who shared his thoughts and worshipped him, had chosen her
husband herself, and, being of German family, had not been married after
the French manner; still, she did not criticise it, as she thought it
was perhaps adapted to the French people, and she had seen among her
intimate acquaintances many happy marriages entered into for reasons of
convenience. They had two children, a son, Ary, who died in 1900 after
having made a name for himself as a painter, and written beautiful poems
(which, however, were only published after his death), and a daughter,
Noemi (Madame Psichari) who, faithfully preserving the intellectual
heritage she has received from her great father, has become one of the
centres of highest Paris, a soul of fire, who fights for Justice and
Truth and social ideas with burning enthusiasm.


A source of very much pleasure to me was my acquaintance with the old
author and College de France Professor, Philarete Chasles. Gregoire
introduced me to him and I gradually became at home, as it were, in his
house, was always a welcome visitor, and was constantly invited there.
In his old age he was not a man to be taken very seriously, being
diffusive, vague and vain. But there was no one else so communicative,
few so entertaining, and for the space of fifty years he had known
everybody who had been of any mark in France. He was born in 1798; his
father, who was a Jacobin and had been a member of the Convention, did
not have him baptised, but brought him up to believe in Truth, (hence
the name Philarete,) and apprenticed him to a printer. At the
Restoration of the Royal Family, he was imprisoned, together with his
father, but released through the influence of Chateaubriand; he then
went to England, where he remained for full seven years (1819-1826),
working as a typographer, and made a careful study of English
literature, then almost unknown in France. After having spent some
further time in Germany, he returned to Paris and published a number of
historical and critical writings.

Philarete Chasles, as librarian to the Mazarin Library, had his
apartments in the building itself, that is, in the very centre of Paris;
in the Summer he lived in the country at Meudon, where he had had his
veranda decorated with pictures of Pompeian mosaic. He was having a
handsome new house with a tower built near by. He needed room, for he
had a library of 40,000 volumes.

His niece kept house for him; she was married to a German from Cologne,
Schulz by name, who was a painter on glass. The pair lived apart. Madame
Schulz was pretty, caustic, spiteful, and blunt. Her daughter, the
fourteen-year-old Nanni, was enchantingly lovely, as developed and
mischievous as a girl of eighteen. Everyone who came to the house was
charmed with her, and it was always full of guests, young students from
Alsace and Provence, young negroes from Hayti, young ladies from
Jerusalem, and poetesses who would have liked to read their poems aloud
and would have liked still better to induce Chasles to make them known
by an article.

Chasles chatted with everyone, frequently addressing his conversation to
me, talking incessantly about the very men and women that I most cared
to hear about, of those still living whom I most admired, such as George
Sand, and Merimee, and, in fact, of all the many celebrities he had
known. As a young man, he had been taken to the house of Madame
Recamier, and had there seen Chateaubriand, an honoured and adored old
man, and Sainte-Beuve an eager and attentive listener, somewhat
overlooked on account of his ugliness, in whom there was developing that
lurking envy of the great, and of those women clustered round, which he
ought to have combatted, to produce just criticism.

Chasles had known personally Michelet and Guizot, the elder Dumas and
Beyle, Cousin and Villemain, Musset and Balzac; he knew the Comtesse
d'Agoult, for so many years the friend of Liszt, and Madame Colet, the
mistress, first of Cousin, then of Musset, and finally of Flaubert, of
whom my French uncle, who had met her on his travels, had drawn me a
very unattractive picture. Chasles was on terms of daily intimacy with
Jules Sandeau; even as an old man he could not forget George Sand, who
had filched the greater part of his name and made it more illustrious
than the whole became. Sandeau loved her still, forty years after she
had left him.

Chasles was able, in a few words, to conjure up very vividly the images
of the persons he was describing to his listener, and his anecdotes
about them were inexhaustible. He took me behind the scenes of
literature and I saw the stage from all its sides. The personal history
of his contemporaries was, it is quite true, more particularly its
chronicle of scandals, but his information completed for me the severe
and graceful restraint of all Taine said. And side by side with his
inclination for gay and malicious gossip, Chasles had a way of sketching
out great synopses of intellectual history, which made one realise, as
one reflected,' the progress of development of the literatures with
which one was familiar. Those were pleasant evenings, those moonlight
Spring evenings in the open veranda out there at Meudon, when the old
man with the sharp-pointed beard and the little skull-cap on one side of
his head, was spokesman. He had the aptest and most amusing way of
putting things. For instance, to my question as to whether Guizot had
really been as austere by nature as he was in manner, he replied: "It is
hard to say; when one wishes to impress, one cannot behave like a

Although I had a keen enough eye for Philarete Chasles' weaknesses, I
felt exceedingly happy in his house. There I could obtain without
difficulty the information I wished for, and have the feeling of being
thoroughly "in Paris." Paris was and still is the only city in the world
that is and wishes to be the capital not only of its own country but of
Europe; the only one that takes upon itself as a duty, not merely to
meet the visitor half-way by opening museums, collections, buildings, to
him, but the only one where people habitually, in conversation, initiate
the foreigner in search of knowledge into the ancient, deep culture of
the nation, so that its position with regard to that of other races and
countries is made clear to one.


I had not let a single day elapse before I took my seat again in the
_Theatre Francais_, to which I had free admission for an indefinite
period. The first time I arrived, the doorkeeper at the theatre merely
called the sub-officials together; they looked at me, noted my
appearance, and for the future I might take my seat wherever I liked,
when the man at the entrance had called out his _Entree_. They were
anything but particular, and in the middle of the Summer, after a visit
of a month to London, I found my seat reserved for me as before.

The first evening after my arrival, I sat, quietly enjoying
_Hernani_ (the lyric beauty of which always rejoiced my heart),
with Mounet-Sully in the leading role, Bressant as Charles V, and as
Dona Sol, Mlle. Lloyd, a minor actress, who, however, at the conclusion
of the piece, rose to the level of the poetry. The audience were so much
in sympathy with the spirit of the piece that a voice from the gallery
shouted indignantly: "_Le roi est un lache!_" Afterwards, during
the same evening, I saw, in a transport of delight, Mme. de Girardin's
charming little piece, _La Joie fait Peur_. A certain family
believe that their son, who is a young naval officer, fallen in the far
East, has been cruelly put to death. He comes back, unannounced, to his
broken-hearted mother, his despairing bride, his sister, and an old man-
servant. This old, bent, faithful retainer, a stock dramatic part, was
played by Regnier with the consummate art that is Nature itself staged.
He has hidden the returned son behind a curtain for fear that his
mother, seeing him unexpectedly, should die of joy. The sister comes in.
Humming, the servant begins to dust, to prevent her going near the
curtain; but unconsciously, in his delight, his humming grows louder and
louder, until, in a hymn of jubilation, tratara-tratara! he flings the
broom up over his head, then stops short suddenly, noticing that the
poor child is standing there, mute with astonishment, not knowing what
to think. Capital, too, was the acting of a now forgotten actress, Mlle.
Dubois, who played the young girl. Her exclamation, as she suddenly sees
her brother, "_Je n'ai pas peur, va_!" was uttered so lightly and
gaily, that all the people round me, and I myself, too, burst into

I was much impressed by Edmond Thierry, then director of the _Theatre
Francais_. I thought him the most refined man I had so far met,
possessed of all the old French courtesy, which seemed to have died out
in Paris. A conversation with him was a regular course in Dramaturgy,
and although a young foreigner like myself must necessarily have been
troublesome to him, he let nothing of this be perceptible. I was so
charmed by him that nearly two years later I introduced a few
unimportant words of his about Moliere's _Misanthrope_ into my
lectures on the first part of _Main Currents in European
Literature_, simply for the pleasure of mentioning his name.

It was, moreover, a very pleasant thing to pay him a visit, even when he
was interrupted. For actors streamed in and out of his house. One day,
for instance, the lovely Agar burst into the room to tell her tale of
woe, being dissatisfied with the dress that she was to wear in a new
part. I saw her frequently again when war had been declared, for she it
was who, every evening, with overpowering force and art, sang the
_Marseillaise_ from before the footlights.

The theatrical performances were a delight to me. I had been charmed as
much only by Michael Wiehe and Johanne Luise Heiberg in my salad days
when they played together in Hertz's _Ninon_. But my artistic
enjoyment went deeper here, for the character portrayal was very much
more true to life. The best impressions I had brought with me of Danish
art were supremely romantic, Michael Wiehe as Henrik in _The
Fairies_, as the Chevalier in _Ninon_, as Mortimer in Schiller's
_Mary Stuart_. But this was the real, living thing.

One evening I saw _Ristori_ play the sleep-walking scene in Macbeth
with thrilling earnestness and supreme virtuosity. You felt horror to
the very marrow of your bones, and your eyes filled with tears of
emotion and anxiety. Masterly was the regular breathing that indicated
slumber, and the stiff fingers when she washed her hands and smelt them
to see if there were blood upon them. But Mme. Favart, who with artistic
self-restraint co-ordinated herself into the whole, without any
virtuosity at all, produced no less an effect upon me. As the leading
character in Feuillet's _Julie_, she was perfection itself; when I
saw her, it seemed to me as though no one at home in Denmark had any
idea of what feminine characterisation was. What had been taken for such
(Heiberg's art, for instance,) only seemed like a graceful and brilliant
convention, that fell to pieces by the side of this.

The performances at the _Theatre Francais_ lasted longer than they
do now. In one evening you could see Gozlan's _Tempete dans un verre
d'Eau_, Augier's _Gabrielle_, and Banville's _Gringoire_.
When I had seen Mme. Favart and Regnier in _Gabrielle_, Lafontaine
as Louis XI, his wife as Loyse, Mlle. Ponsin as Nicole, and Coquelin, at
that time still young and fresh, as Gringoire, I felt that I had enjoyed
one of the greatest and most elevating pleasures the world had to offer.
I went home, enraptured and enthusiastic, as much edified as the
believer returning from his church. I could see _Gringoire_ a dozen
times in succession and find only one expression for what I felt: "This
is holy."

The piece appealed to me so much, no doubt, because it was more in
agreement than the rest with what in Denmark was considered true poetry.
But during the three years since I had last seen him, Coquelin had made
immense strides in this role. He rendered it now with an individuality,
a heartfelt sincerity and charm, that he had not previously attained; in
contrast to harsh King Louis and unfeeling Loyse, was so poor, and
hungry, and ill and merry and tender and such a hero and such a genius--
that I said to myself: "Who, ever has seen this, has lived."

Quite a short while after my arrival--April 12, 1870--I saw for the
first time Sarah Bernhardt, who had just begun to make a name at the
Odeon. She was playing in George Sand's beautiful and mutinous drama
_L'autre_, from which the great-grandmother in Bjoernson's
_Leonarda_ is derived. The piece is a plea for the freedom of love,
or rather, for indulgence with regard to what are branded by society as
the sins of love. Sarah Bernhardt was the young girl who, in her
innocence, judges all moral irregularities with the utmost severity,
until her eyes are opened to what the world really is. She is, without
knowing it, the child of unlawful love, and the father's curse is that
of not daring to be anything to his child--whom he has educated and over
whom he watches--not daring to claim his right to her affection, as he
would otherwise stain her mother's memory. In his presence, the young
girl utters all the hard words that society has for those who break her
laws; she calls her unknown father false and forsworn. George Sand has
collected all the justified protests and every prejudice for this young
girl to utter, because in her they inspire most respect, and are to
their best advantage.--So far her father has not revealed himself. Then
at last it dawns upon her that it is he, her benefactor, who is the
_other one_ whom she has just condemned, and as the curtain falls
she flings herself, melted, into his arms.

Sarah played the part with great modesty, with what one might assume to
be the natural melancholy of the orphan, and the enthusiasm of the young
virgin for strict justice, and yet in such wise that, through all the
coldness, through the expressive uncertainty of her words, and
especially through the lovely, rich ring of her voice, one suspected
tenderness and mildness long held back.


I tried, while I was in Paris, to understand something of the
development of French literature since the beginning of the century, to
arrange it in stages, and note the order of their succession; I wanted,
at the same time, to form for myself a similar general view of Danish
literature, and institute parallels between the two, being convinced
beforehand that the spirit of the age must be approximately the same in
two European countries that were, so to speak, intellectually allied.
This was my first naive attempt to trace The Main Currents in Nineteenth
Century Literature.

The French poetry of the nineteenth century seemed to me to fall into
three groups: Romanticism, the School of Common Sense, the Realistic
Art. I defined them as follows:

I. What the French call _Romanticism_ has many distinguishing
marks. It is, firstly, a _break with Graeco-Roman antiquity_. It
therefore harks back to the Gallic, and to the Middle Ages. It is a
resurrection of the poets of the sixteenth century. But the attempt is a
failure, for Ronsard and the Pleiad [Footnote: The poets who formed the
first and greater Pleiad were, besides Ronsard, Dubellay, Remi, Belleau,
Jodelle, Dorat, Baif and Pontus de Thiard.] are also Greek-taught, are
Anacreontics. If we except the _Chanson de Roland_, there is no
original mediaeval literature that can be compared with the Icelandic.
For that reason the choice of subjects is extended from the Middle Ages
in France to the Middle Ages in other countries, for instance, Germany,
whence Victor Hugo derives his drama _Les Burgraves_. The poets
select foreign matter, Alfred de Vigny treats Chatterton and Musset
Italian and Spanish themes. Merimee harks back to the French Middle Ages
(The Peasant Rising), but as he there finds too little originality, he
flees, as a poet, to less civilised nationalities, Spaniards, South
Americans, Corsicans, Russians, etc. Romanticism becomes ethnographical.

Its second distinguishing mark is _tempestuous violence_. It is
connected with the 1830 revolution. It attacks society and the
conditions of property (Saint Simon, Fourier, Proudhon), attacks
marriage and the official verdict upon sexual relations (Dumas)
Antony Rousseau's old doctrine that Nature is good, the natural state
the right one, and that society alone has spoilt everything. George Sand
in particular worships Rousseau, and writes in essential agreement with

In the later French literature the influence of Voltaire and that of
Rousseau are alternately supreme. Voltaire rules until 1820, Rousseau
again until 1850, then Voltaire takes the reins once more with About,
Taine, and Sarcey. In Renan Voltaire is merged with Rousseau, and now,
later still, Diderot has taken the place of both.

II. The _School of Common Sense_ (_l'ecole de bon sens_) follows upon
Romanticism. As the latter worshipped passion, so the School of Common
Sense pays homage to sound human intelligence. In certain individuals it
is possible to trace the transition--Musset's _Un Caprice_ in
contrast with the wanton works of his youth. George Sand's village
novels, in contrast with her novels on Marriage. The popular tone and
the landscape drawing here, which, for that matter, are all derived from
Rousseau, lead on into a tranquil idyl. Works like Ponsard's
_Lucrece_ and Augier's _Gabrielle_ show the reaction from
Romanticism. In the tragedy it is Lucrece, in the modern play,
Gabrielle, upon whom the action hinges. In Ponsard and Augier common
sense, strict justice, and a conventional feeling of honour, are
acclaimed. Marriage is glorified in all of Ponsard, Augier and Octave
Feuillet's dramas. Literature has no doubt been influenced in some
degree by the ruling orders of the monarchy of July. Louis Philippe was
the bourgeois King. An author like Scribe, who dominates the stages of
Europe, is animated by the all-powerful bourgeois spirit, educated and
circumscribed as it was. Cousin, in his first manner, revolutionary
Schellingism, corresponded to romanticism; his eclecticism as a
moralising philosopher corresponds to the School of Common Sense. The
distinctive feature which they have in common becomes a so-called
Idealism. Ponsard revives the classical traditions of the seventeenth
century. In criticism this endeavour in the direction of the sensible
and the classical, is represented by Nisard, Planche, and Sainte-Beuve
in his second manner.

III. The third tendency of the century Is _Realistic Art_, with
physiological characteristics. It finds its support in positivist
philosophy; Herbart in Germany, Bentham and Mill in England, Comte and
Littre in France. In criticism, Sainte-Beuve's third manner. On the
stage, the younger Dumas. In novels, the brothers Goncourt, and
Flaubert. In Art, a certain brutality in the choice of subject,
_Gerome and Regnault_. In politics, the accomplished fact (_le
fait accompli_), the Empire, the brutal pressure from above and
general levelling by universal suffrage from below. In lyric poetry, the
strictly technical artists of form of the _Parnasse_, Coppee, who
describes unvarnished reality, and the master workmen (_les maitres de
la facture_), Leconte Delisle, Gautier and his pupils, who write
better verse than Lamartine and Hugo, but have no new thoughts or
feelings--the poetic language materialists.

In conclusion, a great many indistinct beginnings, of which it is as yet
impossible to say whither they are tending.

This, my first attempt to formulate for myself a general survey of one
of the great literatures of the nineteenth century, contained much that
was true enough, but revealed very plainly the beginner's lack of
ability to estimate the importance of phenomena, an inclination to over-
estimate purely evanescent apparitions, and a tendency to include that
which was merely externally similar, under one heading. The
insignificant School of Common Sense could not by any means be regarded
as marking an epoch. Neither, with any justice, could men like Augier
and Dumas be placed in different groups. The attempt to point out
realism in the lyric art was likewise exceedingly audacious.

However, this division and grouping seemed to me at that time to be a
great discovery, and great was my disappointment when one day I
consulted Chasles on the subject and he thought it too forced, and
another day submitted it to Renan, who restricted himself to the reply:

"No! no! Things do not proceed so systematically!"

As this survey of the literature of France was also intended to guide me
with regard to the Danish, I groped my way forward in the following

I. _Romanticism_. Oehlenschlaeger's attitude towards the past
corresponds exactly to Victor Hugo's; only that the resurrection of the
Middle Ages in poetry is much more successful (_Earl Hakon, The Gods
of the North_), by reason of the fresh originality in Snorre and the
_Edda_. Grundtvig's _Scenes from the Lives of the Warriors of the
North_ likewise owes all its value to the Edda and the Sagas.
Oehlenschlaeger's _Aladdin_ is the Northern pendant to Hugo's _Les
Orientales_. Gautier, as a poet, Delacroix as a painter, affect the
East, as Oehlenschlaeger does in _Ali and Gulhyndi_. Steffens and
Sibbern, as influenced by Schelling, correspond to Cousin. Hauch not
infrequently seeks his poetic themes in Germany, as do Nodier and Gerard
de Nerval. Ingemann's weak historical novels correspond to the French
imitations of Sir Walter Scott (Alfred de Vigny's _Cinq-Mars_,
Dumas' _Musketeers_). Oehlenschlaeger's tragedies correspond to the
dramas of Victor Hugo. With the Danes, as with the French, hatred of
intelligence, as cold; only that the Danes glorify imagination and
enthusiasm, the French, passion. Romanticism lasts in Denmark (without
Revolutions and Restorations) until about 1848, as in France.

II. The _School of Common Sense_ is in Denmark partly a worship of
the sound sense of the people, partly a moralising tendency. Grundtvig,
with his popular manner, his appreciation of the unsophisticated peasant
nature, had points of contact with the pupils of Rousseau. Moralising
works are Heiberg's _A Soul after Death_, Paludan-Mueller's _Adam
Homo_, and Kierkegaard's _Either-Or_. The funny thing about the
defence of marriage contained in this last book is that it defends what
no one in Denmark attacks. It can only be understood from the
contemporary movement in the intellectual life of Europe, which is now
asserting the universal validity of morality, as it formerly did the
right of passion. Its defence of Protestantism corresponds to Octave
Feuillet's defence of Catholicism, only that Feuillet is conciliatory,
Kierkegaard vehement. Bjoernson's peasant novels, which are a
continuation of Grundtvig and Blicher, are, by their harmony and their
peaceable relations to all that is, an outcome of love of common sense;
they have the same anti-Byronic stamp as the School of Common Sense. The
movement comes to us ten years later. But Bjoernson has simultaneously
something of Romanticism and something of Realism. We have not men to
place separately in the various frames.

III. _Realistic Art_. There is so far only an attempt at a
realistic art.

Thus, in Bjoernson's _Arne_ and _Sigurd Slembe_. Note also an
attempt in Bergsoee's clumsy use of realistic features, and in his
seeking after effect. Richardt corresponds in our lyric art as an artist
in language to the poets of the _Parnasse_, while Heiberg's
philosophy and most of his poetry may be included in the School of
Common Sense. Broechner's _Ideal Realism_ forms the transitional
stage to the philosophy of Reality. Ibsen's attack upon the existing
state of things corresponds to realism in the French drama. He is Dumas
on Northern soil. In the _Love Comedy_, as a scoffer he is
inharmonious. In _Peer Gynt_, he continues in the moralising
tendency with an inclination to coarse and brutal realistic effects
(relations with Anitra).

In Germany we find ourselves at the second stage still, sinking deeper
and deeper into dialect and popular subjects (from Auerbach to Claus
Groth and Fritz Reuter).

It is unnecessary to point out to readers of the present day how
incomplete and arbitrary this attempt at a dissection of Danish
literature was. I started from the conviction that modern intellectual
life in Europe, in different countries, must necessarily in all
essentials traverse the same stages, and as I was able to find various
unimportant points of similarity in support of this view, I quite
overlooked the fact that the counterbalancing weight of dissimilarities
rendered the whole comparison futile.


As, during my first stay in Paris, I had frequently visited Madame
Victorine, the widow of my deceased uncle, and her children, very
cordial relations had since existed between us, especially after my
uncle's faithless friend had been compelled to disgorge the sums sent
from Denmark for her support, which he had so high-handedly kept back.
There were only faint traces left of the great beauty that had once been
hers; life had dealt hardly with her. She was good and tender-hearted,
an affectionate mother, but without other education than was usual in
the Parisian small bourgeois class to which she belonged. All her
opinions, her ideas of honour, of propriety, of comfort and happiness,
were typical of her class.

Partly from economy, partly from a desire not to waste the precious
time, I often, in those days, restricted my midday meal. I would buy
myself, at a provision dealer's, a large veal or ham pie and eat it in
my room, instead of going out to a restaurant. One day Victorine
surprised me at a meal of this sort, and exclaimed horrified:
_"Comment? vous vous nourrissez si mal!"_ To her, it was about the
same as if I had not had any dinner at all. To sit at home without a
cloth on the table, and cut a pie in pieces with a paper knife, was to
sink one's dignity and drop to poor man's fare.

Her thoughts, like those of most poor people in France and elsewhere,
centred mostly on money and money anxieties, on getting on well in the
world, or meeting with adversity, and on how much this man or the other
could earn, or not earn, in the year. Her eldest son was in St.
Petersburg, and he was doing right well; he was good and kind and sent
his mother help when he had a little to spare. He had promised, too, to
take charge of his next brother. But she had much anxiety about the
little ones. One of them was not turning out all that he should be, and
there were the two youngest to educate.

There was a charming celebration in the poor home when little Emma went
to her first communion, dressed all in white, from head to foot, with a
long white veil and white shoes, and several other little girls and boys
came just as smartly dressed, and presents were given and good wishes
offered. Little Henri looked more innocent than any of the little girls.

Victorine had a friend whom she deemed most happy; this was Jules
Claretie's mother, for, young though her son was, he wrote in the
papers, wrote books, too, and earned money, so that he was able to
maintain his mother altogether. He was a young man who ought to be held
in high estimation, an author who was all that he should be. There was
another author whom she detested, and that was P.L. Moeller, the Dane:

"Jacques, as you know, was always a faithful friend of Monsieur Moeller;
he copied out a whole book for him, [Footnote: _The Modern Drama in
France and Denmark_, which won the University Gold Medal for Moeller.]
when he himself was very busy. But then when Jacques died--_pauvre
homme!_--he came and paid visits much too often and always at more and
more extraordinary times, so that I was obliged to forbid him the house."


In a students' hotel near the Odeon, where a few Scandinavians lived, I
became acquainted with two or three young lawyers and more young abbes
and priests. If you went in when the company were at table in the dining
room, the place rang again with their noisy altercations. The advocates
discussed politics, literature and religion with such ardour that the
air positively crackled. They were apparently practising to speak one
day at the Bar or in the Chamber. It was from surroundings such as these
that Gambetta emerged.

The young abbes and priests were very good fellows, earnest believers,
but so simple that conversations with them were only interesting because
of their ignorance and lack of understanding. Scandinavians in Paris who
knew only Roman Catholic priests from _Tartufe_ at the theatre, had
very incorrect conceptions regarding them. Bressant was the cold,
elegant hypocrite, Lafontaine the base, coarse, but powerful cleric,
Leroux the full-blooded, red-faced, voluptuary with fat cheeks and
shaking hands, whose expression was now angry, now sickly sweet.
Northern Protestants were very apt to classify the black-coated men whom
they saw in the streets and in the churches, as belonging to one of
these three types. But my ecclesiastical acquaintances were as free from
hypocrisy as from fanaticism. They were good, honest children of the
commonalty, with, not the cunning, but the stupidity, of peasants.

Many a day I spent exploring the surroundings of Paris in their company.
We went to St. Cloud and Sevres, to Versailles and St. Germain, to Saint
Denis, to Montmorency and Enghien, or to Monthlery, a village with an
old tower from the thirteenth century, and then breakfasted at
Longjumeau, celebrated for its postillion. There Abbe Leboulleux
declared himself opposed to cremation, for the reason that it rendered
the resurrection impossible, since God himself could not collect the
bones again when the body had been burnt. It was all so amiable that one
did not like to contradict him. At the same meal another was giving a
sketch of the youth of Martin Luther; he left the church--_on se
demande encore pourquoi_. In the innocence of his heart this abbe
regarded the rebellion of Luther less as an unpermissible than as an
inexplicable act.


The society of the Italian friends of my first visit gave me much
pleasure. My first call at the Pagellas' was a blank; at the next, I was
received like a son of the house and heaped with reproaches for not
having left my address; they had tried to find me at my former hotel,
and endeavoured in vain to learn where I was staying from Scandinavians
whom they knew by name; now I was to spend all the time I could with
them, as I used to do in the old days. They were delighted to see me
again, and when I wished to leave, drove me home in their carriage. I
resumed my former habit of spending the greater part of my spare time
with Southerners; once more I was transported to Southern Europe and
South America. The very first day I dined at their house I met a jovial
old Spaniard, a young Italian, who was settled in Egypt, and a very
coquettish young Brazilian girl. The Spaniard, who had been born in
Venezuela, was an engineer who had studied conditions in Panama for
eleven years, and had a plan for the cutting of the isthmus. He talked a
great deal about the project, which Lesseps took up many years

Pagella, too, was busy with practical plans, setting himself technical
problems, and solving them. Thus he had discovered a new method of
constructing railway carriages on springs, with a mechanism to prevent
collisions. He christened this the _Virginie-ressort_, after his
wife, and had had offers for it from the Russian government.

An Italian engineer, named Casellini, who had carried out the
construction for him, was one of the many bold adventurers that one met
with among the Southerners in Paris. He had been sent to Spain the year
before by Napoleon III to direct the counter-revolution there. Being an
engineer, he knew the whole country, and had been in constant
communication with Queen Isabella and the Spanish Court in Paris. He
gave illuminating accounts of Spanish corruptibility. He had bribed the
telegraph officials in the South of Spain, where he was, and saw all
political telegrams before the Governor of the place. In Malaga, where
he was leading the movement against the Government, he very narrowly
escaped being shot; he had been arrested, his despatches intercepted and
1,500 rifles seized, but he bribed the officials to allow him to make
selection from the despatches and destroy those that committed him. In
Madrid he had had an audience of Serrano, after this latter had
forbidden the transmission from the town of any telegrams that were not
government telegrams; he had taken with him a telegram drawn up by the
French party, which sounded like an ordinary business letter, and
secured its being sent off together with the government despatches.
Casellini had wished to pay for the telegram, but Serrano had dismissed
the suggestion with a wave of his hand, rung a bell and given the
telegram to a servant. It was just as in Scribe's _Queen Marguerite's
Novels_, the commission was executed by the enemy himself.

Such romantic adventures did not seem to be rare in Spain. Prim himself
had told the Pagellas how at the time of the failure of the first
insurrection he had always, in his flight, (in spite of his defective
education, he was more magnanimous and noble-minded than any king),
provided for the soldiers who were sent out after him, ordered food and
drink for them in every inn he vacated, and paid for everything
beforehand, whereas the Government let their poor soldiers starve as
soon as they were eight or ten miles from Madrid.

I often met a very queer, distinguished looking old Spaniard named Don
Jose Guell y Rente, who had been married to a sister of King Francis,
the husband of King Isabella, but had been separated from her after, as
he declared, she had tried to cut his throat. As witness to his
connubial difficulties, he showed a large scar across his throat. He was
well-read and, amongst other things, enthusiastically admired
Scandinavian literature because it had produced the world's greatest
poet, Ossian, with whom he had become acquainted in Cesarotti's Italian
translation. It was useless to attempt to explain to him the difference
between Scandinavia and Scotland. They are both in the North, he would


A young American named Olcott, who visited Chasles and occasionally
looked me up, brought with him a breath from the universities of the
great North American Republic. A young German, Dr. Goldschmidt, a
distinguished Sanscrit scholar, a man of more means than I, who had a
pretty flat with a view over the Place du Chatelet, and dined at good
restaurants, came, as it were, athwart the many impressions I had
received of Romance nature and Romance intellectual life, with his
violent German national feeling and his thorough knowledge. As early as
the Spring, he believed there would be war between Germany and France
and wished in that event to be a soldier, as all other German students,
so he declared, passionately wished. He was a powerfully built,
energetic, well-informed man of the world, with something of the rich
man's habit of command. He seemed destined to long life and quite able
to stand fatigue. Nevertheless, his life was short. He went through the
whole of the war in France without a scratch, after the conclusion of
peace was appointed professor of Sanscrit at the University of conquered
Strasburg, but died of illness shortly afterwards.

A striking contrast to his reticent nature was afforded by the young
Frenchmen of the same age whom I often met. A very rich and very
enthusiastic young man, Marc de Rossieny, was a kind of leader to them;
he had 200,000 francs a year, and with this money had founded a weekly
publication called "_L'Impartial_," as a common organ for the
students of Brussels and Paris. The paper's name, _L'Impartial_,
must be understood in the sense that it admitted the expression of every
opinion with the exception of defence of so-called revealed religion.
The editorial staff was positivist, Michelet and Chasles were patrons of
the paper, and behind the whole stood Victor Hugo as a kind of honorary
director. The weekly preached hatred of the Empire and of theology, and
seemed firmly established, yet was only one of the hundred ephemeral
papers that are born and die every day in the Latin quarter. When it had
been in existence a month, the war broke out and swept it away, like so
many other and greater things.


Of course I witnessed all that was accessible to me of Parisian public
life. I fairly often found my way, as I had done in 1866, to the Palais
de Justice to hear the great advocates plead. The man I enjoyed
listening to most was Jules Favre, whose name was soon to be on every
one's lips. The younger generation admired in him the high-principled
and steadfast opponent of the Empire in the Chamber, and he was regarded
as well-nigh the most eloquent man in France. As an advocate, he was
incomparable. His unusual handsomeness,--his beautiful face under a
helmet of grey hair, and his upright carriage,--were great points in his
favour. His eloquence was real, penetrating, convincing, inasmuch as he
piled up fact upon fact, and was at the same time, as the French manner
is, dramatic, with large gesticulations that made his gown flutter
restlessly about him like the wings of a bat. It was a depressing fact
that afterwards, as the Minister opposed to Bismarck, he was so unequal
to his position.

I was present at the _Theatre Francais_ on the occasion of the
unveiling of Ponsard's bust. To the Romanticists, Ponsard was nothing
less than the ass's jawbone with which the Philistines attempted to slay
Hugo. But Emile Chasles, a son of my old friend, gave a lecture upon
him, and afterwards _Le lion amoureux_ was played, a very tolerable
little piece from the Revolutionary period, in which, for one thing,
Napoleon appears as a young man. There are some very fine revolutionary
tirades in it, of which Princess Mathilde, after its first
representation, said that they made her _Republican_ heart
palpitate. The ceremony in honor of this little anti-pope to Victor Hugo
was quite a pretty one.

Once, too, I received a ticket for a reception at the French Academy.
The poet Auguste Barbier was being inaugurated and Silvestre de Sacy
welcomed him, in academic fashion, in a fairly indiscreet speech.
Barbier's _Jamber_ was one of the books of poems that I had loved
for years, and I knew many of the strophes by heart, for instance, the
celebrated ones on Freedom and on Napoleon; I had also noticed how
Barbier's vigour had subsided in subsequent collections of poems; in
reality, he was still living on his reputation from the year 1831, and
without a doubt most people believed him to be dead. And now there he
stood, a shrivelled old man in his Palm uniform, his speech revealing
neither satiric power nor lofty intellect. It was undoubtedly owing to
his detestation of Napoleon (_vide_ his poem _L'Idole_) that
the Academy, who were always agitating against the Empire, had now, so
late in the day, cast their eyes upon him. Bald little Silvestre de
Sacy, the tiny son of an important father, reproached him for his verses
on Freedom, as the bold woman of the people who was not afraid to shed

"That is not Freedom as I understand it," piped the little man,--and one
believed him,--but could not refrain from murmuring with the poet:

C'est que la Liberte n'est pas une comtesse
Du noble Faubourg St. Germain,
Une femme qu'un cri fait tomber en faiblesse,
Qui met du blanc et du carmin;
C'est une forte femme.


A very instructive resort, even for a layman, was the Record Office, for
there one could run through the whole history of France in the most
entertaining manner with the help of the manuscripts placed on view,
from the most ancient papyrus rolls to the days of parchment and paper.
You saw the documents of the Feudal Lords' and Priests' Conspiracies
under the Merovingians and the Capets, the decree of divorce between
Philip Augustus and Ingeborg, and letters from the most notable
personages of the Middle Ages and the autocracy. The period of the
Revolution and the First Empire came before one with especial vividness.
There was Charlemagne's monogram stencilled in tin, and that of Robert
of Paris, reproduced in the same manner, those of Louis XIV. and
Moliere, of Francis the Catholic and Mary Stuart. There were letters
from Robespierre and Danton, requests for money and death-warrants from
the Reign of Terror, Charlotte Corday's last letters from prison and the
original letters of Napoleon from St. Helena.

In June I saw the annual races at Longchamps for the first time. Great
was the splendour. From two o'clock in the afternoon to six there was an
uninterrupted stream of carriages, five or six abreast, along the Champs
Elysees; there were thousands of _lorettes_ (as they were called at
that time) in light silk gowns, covered with diamonds and precious
stones, in carriages decorated with flowers. Coachmen and footmen wore
powdered wigs, white or grey, silk stockings and knee-breeches and a
flower in the buttonhole matching the colour of their livery and the
flowers which hung about the horses' ears. Some of the carriages had no
coachman's box or driver, but were harnessed to four horses ridden by
postillions in green satin or scarlet velvet, with white feathers in
their caps.

The only great _demi-mondaine_ of whom I had hitherto caught a
glimpse was the renowned Madame de Paiva, who had a little palace by the
side of the house in which Froelich the painter lived, in the Champs
Elysees. Her connection with Count Henckel v. Donnersmark permitted her
to surround herself with regal magnificence, and, to the indignation of
Princess Mathilde, men like Gautier and Renan, Sainte-Beuve and
Goncourt, Saint-Victor and Taine, sat at her table. The ladies here were
younger and prettier, but socially of lower rank. The gentlemen went
about among the carriages, said _tu_ without any preamble to the
women, and squeezed their hands, while their men-servants sat stolid,
like wood, seeming neither to hear nor see.

This race-day was the last under the Empire. It is the one described in
Zola's _Nana_. The prize for the third race was 100,000 francs.
After English horses had been victorious for several years in
succession, the prize was carried off in 1870--as in _Nana_--by a
native-born horse, and the jubilation was great; it was a serious
satisfaction to national vanity.

At that time, the Tuileries were still standing, and I was fond of
walking about the gardens near closing time, when the guard beat the
drums to turn the people out. It was pleasant to hear the rolling of the
drums, which were beaten by two of the Grenadier Guard drummers and a
Turco. Goldschmidt had already written his clever and linguistically
very fine piece of prose about this rolling of the drums and what it
possibly presaged: Napoleon's own expulsion from the Tuileries and the
humiliation of French grandeur before the Prussians, who might one day
come and drum this grandeur out. But Goldschmidt had disfigured the
pretty little piece somewhat by relating that one day when, for an
experiment, he had tried to make his way into the gardens after the
signal for closing had sounded, the Zouave had carelessly levelled his
bayonet at him with the words: _"Ne faites pas des betises!"_ This
levelling of the bayonet on such trivial provocation was too tremendous,
so I made up my mind one evening to try myself. The soldier on guard
merely remarked politely: "_Ferme, monsieur, on va sortir._"

I little dreamed that only a few months later the Empress would steal
secretly out of the palace, having lost her crown, and still less that
only six months afterwards, during the civil war, the Tuileries would be
reduced to ashes, never to rise again.


At that time the eyes of the Danes were fixed upon France in hope and
expectation that their national resuscitation would come from that
quarter, and they made no distinction between France and the Empire.
Although the shortest visit to Paris was sufficient to convince a
foreigner not only that the personal popularity of the Emperor was long
since at an end, but that the whole government was despised, in Denmark
people did not, and would not, know it. In the Danish paper with the
widest circulation, the Daily Paper, foreign affairs were dealt with by
a man of the name of Prahl, a wildly enthusiastic admirer of the Empire,
a pleasant man and a brainy, but who, on this vital point, seemed to
have blinkers on. From all his numerous foreign papers, he deduced only
the opinions that he held before, and his opinions were solely
influenced by his wishes. He had never had any opportunity of procuring
information at first hand. He said to me one day:

"I am accused of allowing my views to be influenced by the foreign
diplomatists here, I, who have never spoken to one of them. I can
honestly boast of being unacquainted with even the youngest attache of
the Portuguese Ministry." His remarks, which sufficiently revealed this
fact, unfortunately struck the keynote of the talk of the political
wiseacres in Denmark.

Though the Danes were so full of the French, it would be a pity to say
that the latter returned the compliment. It struck me then, as it must
have struck many others, how difficult it was to make people in France
understand that Danes and Norsemen were not Germans. From the roughest
to the most highly educated, they all looked upon it as an understood
thing, and you could not persuade them of anything else. As soon as they
had heard Northerners exchange a few words with each other and had
picked up the frequently recurring _Ja_, they were sufficiently
edified. Even many years after, I caught the most highly cultured
Frenchmen (such as Edmond de Concourt), believing that, at any rate on
the stage, people spoke German in Copenhagen.

One day in June I began chatting on an omnibus with a corporal of
Grenadiers. When he heard that I was Danish, he remarked: "German,
then." I said: "No." He persisted in his assertion, and asked,
cunningly, what _oui_ was in Danish. When I told him he merely
replied, philosophically, "Ah! then German is the mother tongue." It is
true that when Danes, Norwegians and Swedes met abroad they felt each
other to be compatriots; but this did not prevent them all being classed
together as Germans; that they were not Englishmen, you saw at a glance.
Even when there were several of them together, they had difficulty in
asserting themselves as different and independent; they were a Germanic
race all the same, and people often added, "of second-class importance,"
since the race had other more pronounced representatives.

The only strong expression of political opinion that was engineered in
France then was the so-called plebiscite of May, 1870; the government
challenged the verdict of the entire male population of France upon the
policy of Napoleon III. during the past eighteen years, and did so with
the intention, strangely enough not perceived by Prime Minister
Ollivier, of re-converting the so-called constitutional Empire which had
been in existence since January 1, 1870, into an autocracy. Sensible
people saw that the plebiscite was only an objectionable comedy; a
favourable reply would be obtained all over the country by means of
pressure on the voters and falsification of votes; the oppositionist
papers showed this up boldly in articles that were sheer gems of wit.
Disturbances were expected in Paris on the 9th of May, and here and
there troops were collected. But the Parisians, who saw through the
farce, remained perfectly indifferent.

The decision turned out as had been expected; the huge majority in Paris
was _against_, the provincial population voted _for_, the Emperor.


On July 5th I saw John Stuart Mill for the first time. He had arrived in
Paris the night before, passing through from Avignon, and paid a visit

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