Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The True Story of My Life by Hans Christian Andersen

Part 1 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Scans were provided by Eric Eldred; Juliet Sutherland was the
Project Manager--a DP text







Gentlemen,--I take this opportunity of forwarding to you, the _proof
sheets_ of the unpublished Life of Hans Christian Andersen--
translated from a copy transmitted to me for that purpose, by the
Author. It is as well to state that this is the Author's Edition, he
being participant in the proceeds of this work.

I remain, gentlemen,

Yours truly,


LONDON, June 29, 1847.












No literary labor is more delightful to me than translating the
beautiful thoughts and fancies of Hans Christian Andersen. My heart is
in the work, and I feel as if my spirit were kindred to his; just as
our Saxon English seems to me eminently fitted to give the simple,
pure, and noble sentiments of the Danish mind.

This True Story of his Life will not be found the least interesting of
his writings; indeed, to me it seems one of the most so. It furnishes
the key, as it were, to all the rest; and the treasures which it
unlocks will be found to be possessed of additional value when viewed
through the medium of this introduction. It is gratifying for me to be
able to state that the original Author has a personal interest in this
English version of his "Life," as I have arranged with my publishers to
pay Mr. Andersen a certain sum on the publication of this translation,
and the same on all future editions.

M. H.

The Elms, Clapton, June 26.



My life is a lovely story, happy and full of incident. If, when I was a
boy, and went forth into the world poor and friendless, a good fairy
had met me and said, "Choose now thy own course through life, and the
object for which thou wilt strive, and then, according to the
development of thy mind, and as reason requires, I will guide and
defend thee to its attainment," my fate could not, even then, have been
directed more happily, more prudently, or better. The history of my
life will say to the world what it says to me--There is a loving God,
who directs all things for the best.

My native land, Denmark, is a poetical land, full of popular
traditions, old songs, and an eventful history, which has become bound
up with that of Sweden and Norway. The Danish islands are possessed of
beautiful beech woods, and corn and clover fields: they resemble
gardens on a great scale. Upon one of these green islands, Funen,
stands Odense, the place of my birth. Odense is called after the pagan
god Odin, who, as tradition states, lived here: this place is the
capital of the province, and lies twenty-two Danish miles from

In the year 1805 there lived here, in a small mean room, a young
married couple, who were extremely attached to each other; he was a
shoemaker, scarcely twenty-two years old, a man of a richly gifted and
truly poetical mind. His wife, a few years older than himself, was
ignorant of life and of the world, but possessed a heart full of love.
The young man had himself made his shoemaking bench, and the bedstead
with which he began housekeeping; this bedstead he had made out of the
wooden frame which had borne only a short time before the coffin of the
deceased Count Trampe, as he lay in state, and the remnants of the
black cloth on the wood work kept the fact still in remembrance.

Instead of a noble corpse, surrounded by crape and wax-lights, here
lay, on the second of April, 1805, a living and weeping child,--that
was myself, Hans Christian Andersen. During the first day of my
existence my father is said to have sate by the bed and read aloud in
Holberg, but I cried all the time. "Wilt thou go to sleep, or listen
quietly?" it is reported that my father asked in joke; but I still
cried on; and even in the church, when I was taken to be baptized, I
cried so loudly that the preacher, who was a passionate man, said, "The
young one screams like a cat!" which words my mother never forgot. A
poor emigrant, Gomar, who stood as godfather, consoled her in the mean
time by saying that the louder I cried as a child, all the more
beautifully should I sing when I grew older.

Our little room, which was almost filled with the shoemaker's bench,
the bed, and my crib, was the abode of my childhood; the walls,
however, were covered with pictures, and over the work-bench was a
cupboard containing books and songs; the little kitchen was full of
shining plates and metal pans, and by means of a ladder it was possible
to go out on the roof, where, in the gutters between and the neighbor's
house, there stood a great chest filled with soil, my mother's sole
garden, and where she grew her vegetables. In my story of the Snow
Queen that garden still blooms.

I was the only child, and was extremely spoiled, but I continually
heard from my mother how very much happier I was than she had been, and
that I was brought up like a nobleman's child. She, as a child, had
been driven out by her parents to beg, and once when she was not able
to do it, she had sate for a whole day under a bridge and wept. I have
drawn her character in two different aspects, in old Dominica, in the
Improvisatore, and in the mother of Christian, in Only a Fiddler.

My father gratified me in all my wishes. I possessed his whole heart;
he lived for me. On Sundays, he made me perspective glasses, theatres,
and pictures which could be changed; he read to me from Holberg's plays
and the Arabian Tales; it was only in such moments as these that I can
remember to have seen him really cheerful, for he never felt himself
happy in his life and as a handicrafts-man. His parents had been
country people in good circumstances, but upon whom many misfortunes
had fallen; the cattle had died; the farm house had been burned down;
and lastly, the husband had lost his reason. On this the wife had
removed with him to Odense, and there put her son, whose mind was full
of intelligence, apprentice to a shoemaker; it could not be otherwise,
although it was his ardent wish to be able to attend the Grammar
School, where he might have learned Latin. A few well-to-do citizens
had at one time spoken of this, of clubbing together a sufficient sum
to pay for his board and education, and thus giving him a start in
life; but it never went beyond words. My poor father saw his dearest
wish unfulfilled; and he never lost the remembrance of it. I recollect
that once, as a child, I saw tears in his eyes, and it was when a youth
from the Grammar School came to our house to be measured for a new pair
of boots, and showed us his books and told us what he learned.

"That was the path upon which I ought to have gone!" said my father,
kissed me passionately, and was silent the whole evening.

He very seldom associated with his equals. He went out into the woods
on Sundays, when he took me with him; he did not talk much when he was
out, but would sit silently, sunk in deep thought, whilst I ran about
and strung strawberries on a straw, or bound garlands. Only twice in
the year, and that in the month of May, when the woods were arrayed in
their earliest green, did my mother go with us, and then she wore a
cotton gown, which she put on only on these occasions, and when she
partook of the Lord's Supper, and which, as long as I can remember, was
her holiday gown. She always took home with her from the wood a great
many fresh beech boughs, which were then planted behind the polished
stone. Later in the year sprigs of St. John's wort were stuck into the
chinks of the beams, and we considered their growth as omens whether
our lives would be long or short. Green branches and pictures
ornamented our little room, which my mother always kept neat and clean;
she took great pride in always having the bed-linen and the curtains
very white.

The mother of my father came daily to our house, were it only for a
moment, in order to see her little grandson. I was her joy and her
delight. She was a quiet and most amiable old woman, with mild blue
eyes and a fine figure, which life had severely tried. From having been
the wife of a countryman in easy circumstances she had now fallen into
great poverty, and dwelt with her feeble-minded husband in a little
house, which was the last, poor remains of their property. I never saw
her shed a tear. But it made all the deeper impression upon me when she
quietly sighed, and told me about her own mother's mother, how she had
been a rich, noble lady in the city of Cassel, and that she had married
a "comedy-player," that was as she expressed it, and run away from
parents and home, for all of which her posterity had now to do penance.
I never can recollect that I heard her mention the family name of her
grandmother; but her own maiden name was Nommesen. She was employed to
take care of the garden belonging to a lunatic asylum, and every Sunday
evening she brought us some flowers, which they gave her permission to
take home with her. These flowers adorned my mother's cupboard; but
still they were mine, and to me it was allowed to put them in the glass
of water. How great was this pleasure! She brought them all to me; she
loved me with her whole soul. I knew it, and I understood it.

She burned, twice in the year, the green rubbish of the garden; on such
occasions she took me with her to the asylum, and I lay upon the great
heaps of green leaves and pea-straw. I had many flowers to play with,
and--which was a circumstance upon which I set great importance¨ I had
here better food to eat than I could expect at home.

All such patients as were harmless were permitted to go freely about
the court; they often came to us in the garden, and with curiosity and
terror I listened to them and followed them about; nay, I even ventured
so far as to go with the attendants to those who were raving mad. A
long passage led to their cells. On one occasion, when the attendants
were out of the way, I lay down upon the floor, and peeped through the
crack of the door into one of these cells. I saw within a lady almost
naked, lying on her straw bed; her hair hung down over her shoulders,
and she sang with a very beautiful voice. All at once she sprang up,
and threw herself against the door where I lay; the little valve
through which she received her food burst open; she stared down upon
me, and stretched out her long arm towards me. I screamed for terror--I
felt the tips of her fingers touching my clothes--I was half dead when
the attendant came; and even in later years that sight and that feeling
remained within my soul.

Close beside the place where the leaves were burned, the poor old women
had their spinning-room. I often went in there, and was very soon a
favorite. When with these people, I found myself possessed of an
eloquence which filled them with astonishment. I had accidentally heard
about the internal mechanism of the human frame, of course without
understanding anything about it; but all these mysteries were very
captivating to me; and with chalk, therefore, I drew a quantity of
flourishes on the door, which were to represent the intestines; and my
description of the heart and the lungs made the deepest impression. I
passed for a remarkably wise child, that would not live long; and they
rewarded my eloquence by telling me tales in return; and thus a world
as rich as that of the thousand and one nights was revealed to me. The
stories told by these old ladies, and the insane figures which I saw
around me in the asylum, operated in the meantime so powerfully upon
me, that when it grew dark I scarcely dared to go out of the house. I
was therefore permitted, generally at sunset, to lay me down in my
parents' bed with its long flowered curtains, because the press-bed in
which I slept could not conveniently be put down so early in the
evening on account of the room it occupied in our small dwelling; and
here, in the paternal bed, lay I in a waking dream, as if the actual
world did not concern me. I was very much afraid of my weak-minded
grandfather. Only once had he ever spoken to me, and then he had made
use of the formal pronoun "you." He employed himself in cutting out of
wood strange figures, men with beasts' heads, and beasts with wings;
these he packed in a basket and carried them out into the country,
where he was everywhere well received by the peasant women, because he
gave to them and their children these strange toys. One day, when he
was returning to Odense, I heard the boys in the street shouting after
him; I hid myself behind a flight of steps in terror, for I knew that I
was of his flesh and blood.

Every circumstance around me tended to excite my imagination. Odense
itself, in those days in which there was not a single steamboat in
existence, and when intercourse with other places was much more rare
than now, was a totally different city to what it is in our day; a
person might have fancied himself living hundreds of years ago, because
so many customs prevailed then which belonged to an earlier age. The
guilds walked in procession through the town with their harlequin
before them with mace and bells; on Shrove Tuesday the butchers led the
fattest ox through the streets adorned with garlands, whilst a boy in a
white shirt and with great wings on his shoulders rode upon it; the
sailors paraded through the city with music and all their flags flying,
and then two of the boldest among them stood and wrestled upon a plank
placed between two boats, and the one who was not thrown into the water
was the victor.

That, however, which more particularly stamped itself upon my memory,
and became refreshed by after often-repeated relations, was, the abode
of the Spaniards in Funen in 1808. It is true that at that time I was
but three years old; still I nevertheless perfectly remember the brown
foreign men who made disturbances in the streets, and the cannon which
were fired. I saw the people lying on straw in a half-tumbledown
church, which was near the asylum. One day, a Spanish soldier took me
in his arms and pressed a silver image, which he wore upon his breast,
to my lips. I remember that my mother was angry at it, because, she
said, there was something papistical about it; but the image, and the
strange man, who danced me about, kissed me and wept, pleased me:
certainly he had children at home in Spain. I saw one of his comrades
led to execution; he had killed a Frenchman. Many years afterwards this
little circumstance occasioned me to write my little poem, "The
Soldier," which Chamisso translated into German, and which afterwards
was included in the illustrated people's books of soldier-songs.
[Footnote: This same little song, sent to me by the author, was
translated by me and published in the 19th No. of Howitt's Journal.--M.
H.] I very seldom played with other boys; even at school I took little
interest in their games, but remained sitting within doors. At home I
had playthings enough, which my father made for me. My greatest delight
was in making clothes for my dolls, or in stretching out one of my
mother's aprons between the wall and two sticks before a currant-bush
which I had planted in the yard, and thus to gaze in between the sun-
illumined leaves. I was a singularly dreamy child, and so constantly
went about with my eyes shut, as at last to give the impression of
having weak sight, although the sense of sight was especially
cultivated by me.

Sometimes, during the harvest, my mother went into the field to glean.
I accompanied her, and we went, like Ruth in the Bible, to glean in the
rich fields of Boaz. One day we went to a place, the bailiff of which
was well known for being a man of a rude and savage disposition. We saw
him coming with a huge whip in his hand, and my mother and all the
others ran away. I had wooden shoes on my bare feet, and in my haste I
lost these, and then the thorns pricked me so that I could not run, and
thus I was left behind and alone. The man came up and lifted his whip
to strike me, when I looked him in the face and involuntarily

"How dare you strike me, when God can see it?"

The strong, stern man looked at me, and at once became mild; he patted
me on my cheeks, asked me my name, and gave me money.

When I brought this to my mother and showed it her, she said to the
others, "He is a strange child, my Hans Christian; everybody is kind to
him: this bad fellow even has given him money."

I grew up pious and superstitious. I had no idea of want or need; to be
sure my parents had only sufficient to live from day to day, but I at
least had plenty of every thing; an old woman altered my father's
clothes for me. Now and then I went with my parents to the theatre,
where the first representations which I saw were in German. "Das
Donauweibchen" was the favorite piece of the whole city; there,
however, I saw, for the first time, Holberg's Village Politicians
treated as an opera.

The first impression which a theatre and the crowd assembled there made
upon me was, at all events, no sign of any thing poetical slumbering in
me; for my first exclamation on seeing so many people, was, "Now, if we
only had as many casks of butter as there are people here, then I would
eat lots of butter!" The theatre, however, soon became my favorite
place, but, as I could only very seldom go there, I acquired the
friendship of the man who carried out the playbills, and he gave me one
every day. With this I seated myself in a corner and imagined an entire
play, according to the name of the piece and the characters in it. That
was my first, unconscious poetising.

My father's favorite reading was plays and stories, although he also
read works of history and the Scriptures. He pondered in silent thought
afterwards upon that which he had read, but my mother did not
understand him when he talked with her about them, and therefore he
grew more and more silent. One day, he closed the Bible with the words,
"Christ was a man like us, but an extraordinary man!" These words
horrified my mother, and she burst into tears. In my distress I prayed
to God that he would forgive this fearful blasphemy in my father.
"There is no other devil than that which we have in our own hearts," I
heard my father say one day and I made myself miserable about him and
his soul; I was therefore entirely of the opinion of my mother and the
neighbours, when my father, one morning, found three scratches on his
arm, probably occasioned by a nail, that the devil had been to visit
him in the night, in order to prove to him that he really existed. My
father's rambles in the wood became more frequent; he had no rest. The
events of the war in Germany, which he read in the newspapers with
eager curiosity, occupied him completely. Napoleon was his hero: his
rise from obscurity was the most beautiful example to him. At that time
Denmark was in league with France; nothing was talked of but war; my
father entered the service as a soldier, in hope of returning home a
lieutenant. My mother wept. The neighbours shrugged their shoulders,
and said that it was folly to go out to be shot when there was no
occasion for it.

The morning on which the corps were to march I heard my father singing
and talking merrily, but his heart was deeply agitated; I observed that
by the passionate manner in which he kissed me when he took his leave.
I lay sick of the measles and alone in the room, when the drums beat
and my mother accompanied my father, weeping, to the city gate. As soon
as they were gone my old grandmother came in; she looked at me with her
mild eyes and said, it would be a good thing if I died; but that God's
will was always the best.

That was the first day of real sorrow which I remember.

The regiment advanced no farther than Holstein, peace was concluded,
and the voluntary soldier returned to his work-stool. Everything fell
into its old course. I played again with my dolls, acted comedies, and
always in German, because I had only seen them in this language; but my
German was a sort of gibberish which I made up, and in which there
occurred only one real German word, and that was "_Besen_," a word
which I had picked up out of the various dialects which my father
brought home from Holstein.

"Thou hast indeed some benefit from my travels," said he in joke. "God
knows whether thou wilt get as far; but that must be thy care. Think
about it, Hans Christian!" But it was my mother's intention that as
long as she had any voice in the matter, I should remain at home, and
not lose my health as he had done.

That was the case with him; his health had suffered. One morning he
woke in a state of the wildest excitement, and talked only of campaigns
and Napoleon. He fancied that he had received orders from him to take
the command. My mother immediately sent me, not to the physician, but
to a so-called wise woman some miles from Odense. I went to her. She
questioned me, measured my arm with a woolen thread, made extraordinary
signs, and at last laid a green twig upon my breast. It was, she said,
a piece of the same kind of tree upon which the Saviour was crucified.

"Go now," said she, "by the river side towards home. If your father
will die this time, then you will meet his ghost."

My anxiety and distress may be imagined,--I, who was so full of
superstition, and whose imagination was so easily excited.

"And thou hast not met anything, hast thou?" inquired my mother when I
got home. I assured her, with beating heart, that I had not.

My father died the third day after that. His corpse lay on the bed: I
therefore slept with my mother. A cricket chirped the whole night

"He is dead," said my mother, addressing it; "thou needest not call
him. The ice maiden has fetched him."

I understood what she meant. I recollected that, in the winter before,
when our window panes were frozen, my father pointed to them and showed
us a figure as that of a maiden with outstretched arms. "She is come to
fetch me," said he, in jest. And now, when he lay dead on the bed, my
mother remembered this, and it occupied my thoughts also.

He was buried in St. Knud's churchyard, by the door on the left hand
side coming from the altar. My grandmother planted roses upon his
grave. There are now in the selfsame place two strangers' graves, and
the grass grows green upon them also.

After my father's death I was entirely left to myself. My mother went
out washing. I sate alone at home with my little theatre, made dolls'
clothes and read plays. It has been told me that I was always clean and
nicely dressed. I had grown tall; my hair was long, bright, and almost
yellow, and I always went bare-headed. There dwelt in our neighborhood
the widow of a clergyman, Madame Bunkeflod, with the sister of her
deceased husband. This lady opened to me her door, and hers was the
first house belonging to the educated class into which I was kindly
received. The deceased clergyman had written poems, and had gained a
reputation in Danish literature. His spinning songs were at that time
in the mouths of the people. In my vignettes to the Danish poets I thus
sang of him whom my contemporaries had forgotten:--

Spindles rattle, wheels turn round,
Spinning-songs depart;
Songs which youth sings soon become
Music of the heart.

Here it was that I heard for the first time the word _poet_
spoken, and that with so much reverence, as proved it to be something
sacred. It is true that my father had read Holberg's play to me; but
here it was not of these that they spoke, but of verses and poetry. "My
brother the poet," said Bunkeflod's sister, and her eyes sparkled as
she said it. From her I learned that it was a something glorious, a
something fortunate, to be a poet. Here, too, for the first time, I
read Shakspeare, in a bad translation, to be sure; but the bold
descriptions, the heroic incidents, witches, and ghosts were exactly to
my taste. I immediately acted Shakspeare's plays on my little puppet
theatre. I saw Hamlet's ghost, and lived upon the heath with Lear. The
more persons died in a play, the more interesting I thought it. At this
time I wrote my first piece: it was nothing less than a tragedy,
wherein, as a matter of course, everybody died. The subject of it I
borrowed from an old song about Pyramus and Thisbe; but I had increased
the incidents through a hermit and his son, who both loved Thisbe, and
who both killed themselves when she died. Many speeches of the hermit
were passages from the Bible, taken out of the little catechism,
especially from our duty to our neighbors. To the piece I gave the
title "Abor and Elvira."

"It ought to be called 'Perch (Aborre) and Stockfish,'" said one of our
neighbors wittily to me, as I came with it to her after having read it
with great satisfaction and joy to all the people in our street. This
entirely depressed me, because I felt that she was turning both me and
my poem to ridicule. With a troubled heart I told it to my mother.

"She only said so," replied my mother, "because her son had not done
it." I was comforted, and began a new piece, in which a king and queen
were among the dramatis personae. I thought it was not quite right that
these dignified personages, as in Shakspeare, should speak like other
men and women. I asked my mother and different people how a king ought
properly to speak, but no one knew exactly. They said that it was so
many years since a king had been in Odense, but that he certainly spoke
in a foreign language. I procured myself, therefore, a sort of lexicon,
in which were German, French, and English words with Danish meanings,
and this helped me. I took a word out of each language, and inserted
them into the speeches of my king and queen. It was a regular Babel-
like language, which I considered only suitable for such elevated

I desired now that everybody should hear my piece. It was a real
felicity to me to read it aloud, and it never occurred to me that
others should not have the same pleasure in listening to it.

The son of one of our neighbors worked in a cloth manufactory, and
every week brought home a sum of money. I was at a loose end, people
said, and got nothing. I was also now to go to the manufactory, "not
for the sake of the money," my mother said, "but that she might know
where I was, and what I was doing."

My old grandmother took me to the place, therefore, and was very much
affected, because, said she, she had not expected to live to see the
time when I should consort with the poor ragged lads that worked there.

Many of the journeymen who were employed in the manufactory were
Germans; they sang and were merry fellows, and many a coarse joke of
theirs filled the place with loud laughter. I heard them, and I there
learned that, to the innocent ears of a child, the impure remains very
unintelligible. It took no hold upon my heart. I was possessed at that
time of a remarkably beautiful and high soprano voice, and I knew it;
because when I sang in my parents' little garden, the people in the
street stood and listened, and the fine folks in the garden of the
states-councillor, which adjoined ours, listened at the fence. When,
therefore, the people at the manufactory asked me whether I could sing,
I immediately began, and all the looms stood still: all the journeymen
listened to me. I had to sing again and again, whilst the other boys
had my work given them to do. I now told them that I also could act
plays, and that I knew whole scenes of Holberg and Shakspeare.
Everybody liked me; and in this way, the first days in the manufactory
passed on very merrily. One day, however, when I was in my best singing
vein, and everybody spoke of the extraordinary brilliancy of my voice,
one of the journeymen said that I was a girl, and not a boy. He seized
hold of me. I cried and screamed. The other journeymen thought it very
amusing, and held me fast by my arms and legs. I screamed aloud, and
was as much ashamed as a girl; and then, darting from them, rushed home
to my mother, who immediately promised me that I should never go there

I again visited Madame Bunkeflod, for whose birthday I invented and
made a white silk pincushion. I also made an acquaintance with another
old clergyman's widow in the neighborhood. She permitted me to read
aloud to her the works which she had from the circulating library. One
of them began with these words: "It was a tempestuous night; the rain
beat against the window-panes."

"That is an extraordinary book," said the old lady; and I quite
innocently asked her how she knew that it was. "I can tell from the
beginning," said she, "that it will turn out extraordinary."

I regarded her penetration with a sort of reverence.

Once in the harvest time my mother took me with her many miles from
Odense to a nobleman's seat in the neighborhood of Bogense, her native
place. The lady who lived there, and with whose parents my mother had
lived, had said that some time she might come and see her. That was a
great journey for me: we went most of the way on foot, and required, I
believe, two days for the journey. The country here made such a strong
impression upon me, that my most earnest wish was to remain in it, and
become a countryman. It was just in the hop-picking season; my mother
and I sat in the barn with a great many country people round a great
binn, and helped to pick the hops. They told tales as they sat at their
work, and every one related what wonderful things he had seen or
experienced. One afternoon I heard an old man among them say that God
knew every thing, both what had happened and what would happen. That
idea occupied my whole mind, and towards evening, as I went alone from
the court, where there was a deep pond, and stood upon some stones
which were just within the water, the thought passed through my head,
whether God actually knew everything which was to happen there. Yes, he
has now determined that I should live and be so many years old, thought
I; but, if I now were to jump into the water here and drown myself,
then it would not be as he wished; and all at once I was firmly and
resolutely determined to drown myself. I ran to where the water was
deepest, and then a new thought passed through my soul. "It is the
devil who wishes to have power over me!" I uttered a loud cry, and,
running away from the place as if I were pursued, fell weeping into my
mother's arms. But neither she nor any one else could wring from me
what was amiss with me.

"He has certainly seen a ghost," said one of the women; and I almost
believed so myself.

My mother married a second time, a young handicraftsman; but his
family, who also belonged to the handicraft class, thought that he had
married below himself, and neither my mother nor myself were permitted
to visit them. My step-father was a young, grave man, who would have
nothing to do with my education. I spent my time, therefore, over my
peep show and my puppet theatre, and my greatest happiness consisted in
collecting bright colored pieces of cloth and silk, which I cut out
myself and sewed. My mother regarded it as good exercise preparatory to
my becoming a tailor, and took up the idea that I certainly was born
for it. I, on the contrary, said that I would go to the theatre and be
an actor, a wish which my mother most sedulously opposed, because she
knew of no other theatre than those of the strolling players and the
rope-dancers. No, a tailor I must and should be. The only thing which
in some measure reconciled me to this prospect was, that I should then
get so many fragments to make up for my theatre.

My passion for reading, the many dramatic scenes which I knew by heart,
and my remarkably fine voice, had turned upon me in some sort the
attention of several of the more influential families of Odense. I was
sent for to their houses, and the peculiar characteristics of my mind
excited their interest. Among others who noticed me was the Colonel
Hoegh-Guldberg, who with his family showed me the kindest sympathy; so
much so, indeed, that he introduced me to the present king, then Prince

I grew rapidly, and was a tall lad, of whom my mother said that she
could not let him any longer go about without any object in life. I was
sent, therefore, to the charity school, but learned only religion,
writing, and arithmetic, and the last badly enough; I could also
scarcely spell a word correctly. On the master's birthday I always wove
him a garland and wrote him a poem; he received them half with smiles
and half as a joke; the last time, however, he scolded me. The street
lads had also heard from their parents of my peculiar turn of mind, and
that I was in the habit of going to the houses of the gentry. I was
therefore one day pursued by a wild crowd of them, who shouted after me
derisively, "There runs the play-writer!" I hid myself at home in a
corner, wept, and prayed to God.

My mother said that I must be confirmed, in order that I might be
apprenticed to the tailor trade, and thus do something rational. She
loved me with her whole heart, but she did not understand my impulses
and my endeavors, nor indeed at that time did I myself. The people
about her always spoke against my odd ways, and turned me to ridicule.

We belonged to the parish of St. Knud, and the candidates for
confirmation could either enter their names with the prevost or the
chaplain. The children of the so-called superior families and the
scholars of the grammar school went to the first, and the children of
the poor to the second. I, however, announced myself as a candidate to
the prevost, who was obliged to receive me, although he discovered
vanity in my placing myself among his catechists, where, although
taking the lowest place, I was still above those who were under the
care of the chaplain. I would, however, hope that it was not alone
vanity which impelled me. I had a sort of fear of the poor boys, who
had laughed at me, and I always felt as it were an inward drawing
towards the scholars of the grammar school, whom I regarded as far
better than other boys. When I saw them playing in the church-yard, I
would stand outside the railings, and wish that I were but among the
fortunate ones,--not for the sake of play, but for the sake of the many
books they had, and for what they might be able to become in the world.
With the prevost, therefore, I should be able to come together with
them, and be as they were; but I do not remember a single one of them
now, so little intercourse would they hold with me. I had daily the
feeling of having thrust myself in where people thought that I did not
belong. One young girl, however, there was, and one who was considered
too of the highest rank, whom I shall afterwards have to mention; she
always looked gently and kindly at me, and even once gave me a rose. I
returned home full of happiness, because there was one being who did
not overlook and repel me.

An old female tailor altered my deceased father's great coat into a
confirmation suit for me; never before had I worn so good a coat. I had
also for the first time in my life a pair of boots. My delight was
extremely great; my only fear was that everybody would not see them,
and therefore I drew them up over my trousers, and thus marched through
the church. The boots creaked, and that inwardly pleased me, for thus
the congregation would hear that they were new. My whole devotion was
disturbed; I was aware of it, and it caused me a horrible pang of
conscience that my thoughts should be as much with my new boots as with
God. I prayed him earnestly from my heart to forgive me, and then again
I thought about my new boots.

During the last year I had saved together a little sum of money. When I
counted it over I found it to be thirteen rix dollars banco (about
thirty shillings) I was quite overjoyed at the possession of so much
wealth, and as my mother now most resolutely required that I should be
apprenticed to a tailor, I prayed and besought her that I might make a
journey to Copenhagen, that I might see the greatest city in the world.
"What wilt thou do there?" asked my mother.

"I will become famous," returned I, and I then told her all that I had
read about extraordinary men. "People have," said I, "at first an
immense deal of adversity to go through, and then they will be famous."

It was a wholly unintelligible impulse that guided me. I wept, I
prayed, and at last my mother consented, after having first sent for a
so-called wise woman out of the hospital, that she might read my future
fortune by the coffee-grounds and cards.

"Your son will become a great man," said the old woman, "and in honor
of him, Odense will one day be illuminated."

My mother wept when she heard that, and I obtained permission to
travel. All the neighbors told my mother that it was a dreadful thing
to let me, at only fourteen years of age, go to Copenhagen, which was
such a long way off, and such a great and intricate city, and where I
knew nobody.

"Yes," replied my mother, "but he lets me have no peace; I have
therefore given my consent, but I am sure that he will go no further
than Nyborg; when he gets sight of the rough sea, he will be frightened
and turn back again."

During the summer before my confirmation, a part of the singers and
performers of the Theatre Royal had been in Odense, and had given a
series of operas and tragedies there. The whole city was taken with
them. I, who was on good terms with the man who delivered the play-
bills, saw the performances behind the scenes, and had even acted a
part as page, shepherd, etc., and had spoken a few words. My zeal was
so great on such occasions, that I stood there fully apparelled when
the actors arrived to dress. By these means their attention was turned
to me; my childlike manners and my enthusiasm amused them; they talked
kindly with me, and I looked up to them as to earthly divinities.
Everything which I had formerly heard about my musical voice, and my
recitation of poetry, became intelligible to me. It was the theatre for
which I was born: it was there that I should become a famous man, and
for that reason Copenhagen was the goal of my endeavors. I heard a deal
said about the large theatre in Copenhagen, and that there was to be
soon what was called the ballet, a something which surpassed both the
opera and the play; more especially did I hear the solo-dancer, Madame
Schall, spoken of as the first of all. She therefore appeared to me as
the queen of everything, and in my imagination I regarded her as the
one who would be able to do everything for me, if I could only obtain
her support. Filled with these thoughts, I went to the old printer
Iversen, one of the most respectable citizens of Odense, and who, as I
heard, had had considerable intercourse with the actors when they were
in the town. He, I thought, must of necessity be acquainted with the
famous dancer; him I would request to give me a letter of introduction
to her, and then I would commit the rest to God.

The old man saw me for the first time, and heard my petition with much
kindness; but he dissuaded me most earnestly from it, and said that I
might learn a trade.

"That would actually be a great sin," returned I.

He was startled at the manner in which I said that, and it prepossessed
him in my favor; he confessed that he was not personally acquainted
with the dancer, but still that he would give me a letter to her. I
received one from him, and now believed the goal to be nearly won.

My mother packed up my clothes in a small bundle, and made a bargain
with the driver of a post carriage to take me back with him to
Copenhagen for three rix dollars banco. The afternoon on which we were
to set out came, and my mother accompanied me to the city gate. Here
stood my old grandmother; in the last few years her beautiful hair had
become grey; she fell upon my neck and wept, without being able to
speak a word. I was myself deeply affected. And thus we parted. I saw
her no more; she died in the following year.

I do not even know her grave; she sleeps in the poor-house burial-

The postilion blew his horn; it was a glorious sunny afternoon, and the
sunshine soon entered into my gay child-like mind. I delighted in every
novel object which met my eye, and I was journeying towards the goal of
my soul's desires. When, however, I arrived at Nyborg on the great
Belt, and was borne in the ship away from my native island, I then
truly felt how alone and forlorn I was, and that I had no one else
except God in heaven to depend upon.

As soon as I set foot on Zealand, I stepped behind a shed, which stood
on the shore, and falling upon my knees, besought of God to help and
guide me aright; I felt myself comforted by so doing, and I firmly
trusted in God and my own good fortune. The whole day and the following
night I travelled through cities and villages; I stood solitarily by
the carriage, and ate my bread while it was repacked.--I thought I was
far away in the wide world.


On Monday morning, September 5th, 1819, I saw from the heights of
Frederiksburg, Copenhagen, for the first time. At this place I alighted
from the carriage, and with my little bundle in my hand, entered the
city through the castle garden, the long alley and the suburb.

The evening before my arrival had been made memorable by the breaking
out of the so-called Jews quarrel, which spread through many European
countries. The whole city was in commotion [Footnote: This remarkable
disturbance makes a fine incident in Anderson's romance of "Only a
Fiddler."--M. H.]; every body was in the streets; the noise and tumult
of Copenhagen far exceeded, therefore, any idea which my imagination
had formed of this, at that time, to me great city.

With scarcely ten dollars in my pocket, I turned into a small public-
house. My first ramble was to the theatre. I went round it many times;
I looked up to its walls, and regarded them almost as a home. One of
the bill-sellers, who wandered about here each day, observed me, and
asked me if I would have a bill. I was so wholly ignorant of the world,
that I thought the man wished to give me one; I therefore accepted his
offer with thankfulness. He fancied I was making fun of him and was
angry; so that I was frightened, and hastened from the place which was
to me the dearest in the city. Little did I then imagine that ten years
afterwards my first dramatic piece would be represented there, and that
in this manner I should make my appearance before the Danish public. On
the following day I dressed myself in my confirmation suit, nor were
the boots forgotten, although, this time, they were worn, naturally,
under my trousers; and thus, in my best attire, with a hat on, which
fell half over my eyes, I hastened to present my letter of introduction
to the dancer, Madame Schall. Before I rung at the bell, I fell on my
knees before the door and prayed God that I here might find help and
support. A maid-servant came down the steps with her basket in her
hand; she smiled kindly at me, gave me a skilling (Danish), and tripped
on. Astonished, I looked at her and the money. I had on my confirmation
suit, and thought I must look very smart. How then could she think that
I wanted to beg? I called after her.

"Keep it, keep it!" said she to me, in return, and was gone.

At length I was admitted to the dancer; she looked at me in great
amazement, and then heard what I had to say. She had not the slightest
knowledge of him from whom the letter came, and my whole appearance and
behavior seemed very strange to her. I confessed to her my heartfelt
inclination for the theatre; and upon her asking me what characters I
thought I could represent, I replied, Cinderella. This piece had been
performed in Odense by the royal company, and the principal characters
had so greatly taken my fancy, that I could play the part perfectly
from memory. In the mean time I asked her permission to take off my
boots, otherwise I was not light enough for this character; and then
taking up my broad hat for a tambourine, I began to dance and sing,--

"Here below, nor rank nor riches, Are exempt from pain and woe."

My strange gestures and my great activity caused the lady to think me
out of my mind, and she lost no time in getting rid of me.

From her I went to the manager of the theatre, to ask for an
engagement. He looked at me, and said that I was "too thin for the

"Oh," replied I, "if you will only engage me with one hundred rix
dollars banco salary, then I shall soon get fat!" The manager bade me
gravely go my way, adding, that they only engaged people of education.

I stood there deeply wounded. I knew no one in all Copenhagen who could
give me either counsel or consolation. I thought of death as being the
only thing, and the best thing for me; but even then my thoughts rose
upwards to God, and with all the undoubting confidence of a child in
his father, they riveted themselves upon Him. I wept bitterly, and then
I said to myself, "When everything happens really miserably, then he
sends help. I have always read so. People must first of all suffer a
great deal before they can bring anything to accomplishment."

I now went and bought myself a gallery-ticket for the opera of Paul and
Virginia. The separation of the lovers affected me to such a degree,
that I burst into violent weeping. A few women, who sat near me,
consoled me by saying that it was only a play, and nothing to trouble
oneself about; and then they gave me a sausage sandwich. I had the
greatest confidence in everybody, and therefore I told them, with the
utmost openness, that I did not really weep about Paul and Virginia,
but because I regarded the theatre as my Virginia, and that if I must
be separated from it, I should be just as wretched as Paul. They looked
at me, and seemed not to understand my meaning. I then told them why I
had come to Copenhagen, and how forlorn I was there. One of the women,
therefore, gave me more, bread and butter, with fruit and cakes.

On the following morning I paid my bill, and to my infinite trouble I
saw that my whole wealth consisted in one rix dollar banco. It was
necessary, therefore, either that I should find some vessel to take me
home, or put myself to work with some handicraftsman. I considered that
the last was the wiser of the two, because, if I returned to Odense, I
must there also put myself to work of a similar kind; besides which, I
knew very well that the people there would laugh at me if I came back
again. It was to me a matter of indifference what handicraft trade I
learned,--I only should make use of it to keep life within me in
Copenhagen. I bought a newspaper, therefore. I found among the
advertisements that a cabinet maker was in want of an apprentice. The
man received me kindly, but said that before I was bound to him he must
have an attestation, and my baptismal register from Odense; and that
till these came I could remove to his house, and try how the business
pleased me. At six o'clock the next morning I went to the workshop:
several journeymen were there, and two or three apprentices; but the
master was not come. They fell into merry and idle discourse. I was as
bashful as a girl, and as they soon perceived this, I was unmercifully
rallied upon it. Later in the day the rude jests of the young fellows
went so far, that, in remembrance of the scene at the manufactory, I
took the resolute determination not to remain a single day longer in
the workshop. I went down to the master, therefore, and told him that I
could not stand it; he tried to console me, but in vain: I was too much
affected, and hastened away.

I now went through the streets; nobody knew me; I was quite forlorn. I
then bethought myself of having read in a newspaper in Odense the name
of an Italian, Siboni, who was the director of the Academy of Music in
Copenhagen. Everybody had praised my voice; perhaps he would assist me
for its sake; if not, then that very evening I must seek out the master
of some vessel who would take me home again. At the thoughts of the
journey home I became still more violently excited, and in this state
of suffering I hastened to Siboni's house.

It happened that very day that he had a large party to dinner; our
celebrated composer Weyse was there, the poet Baggesen, and other
guests. The housekeeper opened the door to me, and to her I not only
related my wish to be engaged as a singer, but also the whole history
of my life. She listened to me with the greatest sympathy, and then she
left me. I waited a long time, and she must have been repeating to the
company the greater part of what I had said, for, in a while, the door
opened, and all the guests came out and looked at me. They would have
me to sing, and Siboni heard me attentively. I gave some scenes out of
Holberg, and repeated a few poems; and then, all at once, the sense of
my unhappy condition so overcame me that I burst into tears; the whole
company applauded.

"I prophesy," said Baggesen, "that one day something will come out of
him; but do not be vain when, some day, the whole public shall applaud
thee!" and then he added something about pure, true nature, and that
this is too often destroyed by years and by intercourse with mankind. I
did not understand it all.

Siboni promised to cultivate my voice, and that I therefore should
succeed as singer at the Theatre Royal. It made me very happy; I
laughed and wept; and as the housekeeper led me out and saw the
excitement under which I labored, she stroked my cheeks, and said that
on the following day I should go to Professor Weyse, who meant to do
something for me, and upon whom I could depend.

I went to Weyse, who himself had risen from poverty; he had deeply felt
and fully comprehended my unhappy situation, and had raised by a
subscription seventy rix dollars banco for me. I then wrote my first
letter to my mother, a letter full of rejoicing, for the good fortune
of the whole world seemed poured upon me. My mother in her joy showed
my letter to all her friends; many heard of it with astonishment;
others laughed at it, for what was to be the end of it? In order to
understand Siboni it was necessary for me to learn something of German.
A woman of Copenhagen, with whom I travelled from Odense to this city,
and who gladly, according to her means, would have supported me,
obtained, through one of her acquaintance, a language-master, who
gratuitously gave me some German lessons, and thus I learned a few
phrases in that language. Siboni received me into his house, and gave
me food and instruction; but half a year afterwards my voice broke, or
was injured, in consequence of my being compelled to wear bad shoes
through the winter, and having besides no warm under-clothing. There
was no longer any prospect that I should become a fine singer. Siboni
told me that candidly, and counselled me to go to Odense, and there
learn a trade.

I, who in the rich colors of fancy had described to my mother the
happiness which I actually felt, must now return home and become an
object of derision! Agonized with this thought, I stood as if crushed
to the earth. Yet, precisely amid this apparently great un-happiness
lay the stepping-stones of a better fortune.

As I found myself again abandoned, and was pondering by myself upon
what was best for me next to do, it occurred to me that the Poet
Guldberg, a brother of the Colonel of that name in Odense, who had
shown me so much kindness, lived in Copenhagen. He lived at that time
near the new church-yard outside the city, of which he has so
beautifully sung in his poems. I wrote to him, and related to him
everything; afterwards I went to him myself, and found him surrounded
with books and tobacco pipes. The strong, warm-hearted man received me
kindly; and as he saw by my letter how incorrectly I wrote, he promised
to give me instruction in the Danish tongue; he examined me a little in
German, and thought that it would be well if he could improve me in
this respect also. More than this, he made me a present of the profits
of a little work which he had just then published; it became known, and
I believe they exceeded one hundred rix dollars banco; the excellent
Weyse and others also supported me.

It was too expensive for me to lodge at a public house; I was therefore
obliged to seek for private lodgings. My ignorance of the world led me
to a widow who lived in one of the most disreputable streets of
Copenhagen; she was inclined to receive me into her house, and I never
suspected what kind of world it was which moved around me. She was a
stern, but active dame; she described to me the other people of the
city in such horrible colors as made me suppose that I was in the only
safe haven there. I was to pay twenty rix dollars monthly for one room,
which was nothing but an empty store-room, without window and light,
but I had permission to sit in her parlor. I was to make trial of it at
first for two days, meantime on the following day she told me that I
could decide to stay or immediately go. I, who so easily attach myself
to people, already liked her, and felt myself at home with her; but
more than sixteen dollars per month Weyse had told me I must not pay,
and this was the sum which I had received from him and Guldberg, so
that no surplus remained to me for my other expenses. This troubled me
very much; when she was gone out of the room, I seated myself on the
sofa, and contemplated the portrait of her deceased husband.

I was so wholly a child, that as the tears rolled down my own cheeks, I
wetted the eyes of the portrait with my tears, in order that the dead
man might feel how troubled I was, and influence the heart of his wife.
She must have seen that nothing more was to be drained out of me, for
when she returned to the room she said that she would receive me into
her house for the sixteen rix dollars. I thanked God and the dead man.
I found myself in the midst of the mysteries of Copenhagen, but I did
not understand how to interpret them. There was in the house in which I
lived a friendly young lady, who lived alone, and often wept; every
evening her old father came and paid her a visit. I opened the door to
him frequently; he wore a plain sort of coat, had his throat very much
tied up, and his hat pulled over his eyes. He always drank his tea with
her, and nobody dared to be present, because he was not fond of
company: she never seemed very glad at his coming. [Footnote: This
character will be recognised in Steffen Margaret, in Only a Fiddler.--
M. H.] Many years afterwards, when I had reached another step on the
ladder of life, when the refined world of fashionable life was opened
before me, I saw one evening, in the midst of a brilliantly lighted
hall, a polite old gentleman covered with orders--that was the old
father in the shabby coat, he whom I had let in. He had little idea
that I had opened the door to him when he played his part as guest, but
I, on my side, then had also no thought but for my own comedy-playing;
that is to say, I was at that time so much of a child that I played
with my puppet-theatre and made my dolls' clothes; and in order that I
might obtain gaily-colored fragments for this purpose, I used to go to
the shops and ask for patterns of various kinds of stuffs and ribbons.
I myself did not possess a single farthing; my landlady received all
the money each month in advance; only now and then, when I did any
errands for her, she gave me something, and that went in the purchase
of paper or for old play-books. I was now very happy, and was doubly so
because Professor Guldberg had induced Lindgron, the first comic actor
at the theatre, to give me instruction. He gave me several parts in
Holberg to learn, such as Hendrik, and the Silly Boy, for which I had
shown some talent. My desire, however, was to play the Correggio. I
obtained permission to learn this piece in my own way, although
Lindgron asked, with comic gravity, whether I expected to resemble the
great painter? I, however, repeated to him the soliloquy in the picture
gallery with so much feeling, that the old man clapped me on the
shoulder and said, "Feeling you have; but you must not be an actor,
though God knows what else. Speak to Guldberg about your learning
Latin: that always opens the way for a student."

I a student! That was a thought which had never come before into my
head. The theatre lay nearer to me, and was dearer too; but Latin I had
also always wished to learn. But before I spoke on the subject to
Guldberg, I mentioned it to the lady who gave me gratuitous instruction
in German; but she told me that Latin was the most expensive language
in the world, and that it was not possible to gain free instruction in
it. Guldberg, however, managed it so that one of his friends, out of
kindness, gave me two lessons a week.

The dancer, Dahlen, whose wife at that time was one of the first
artistes on the Danish boards, opened his house to me. I passed many an
evening there, and the gentle, warm-hearted lady was kind to me. The
husband took me with him to the dancing-school, and that was to me one
step nearer to the theatre. There stood I for whole mornings, with a
long staff, and stretched my legs; but notwithstanding all my good-
will, it was Dahlen's opinion that I should never get beyond a
figurante. One advantage, however, I had gained; I might in an evening
make my appearance behind the scenes of the theatre; nay, even sit upon
the farthest bench in the box of the figurantes. It seemed to me as if
I had got my foot just within the theatre, although I had never yet
been upon the stage itself.

One night the little opera of the Two Little Savoyards was given; in
the market scene every one, even the mechanists, might go up to help in
filling the stage; I heard them say so, and rouging myself a little, I
went happily up with the others. I was in my ordinary dress; the
confirmation coat, which still held together, although, with regard to
brushing and repairs, it looked but miserably, and the great hat which
fell down over my face. I was very conscious of the ill condition of my
attire, and would have been glad to have concealed it; but, through the
endeavor to do so, my movements became still more angular. I did not
dare to hold myself upright, because, by so doing, I exhibited all the
more plainly the shortness of my waistcoat, which I had outgrown. I had
the feeling very plainly that people would make themselves merry about
me; yet, at this moment, I felt nothing but the happiness of stepping
for the first time before the foot-lamps. My heart beat; I stepped
forward; there came up one of the singers, who at that time was much
thought of, but now is forgotten; he took me by the hand, and jeeringly
wished me happiness on my d but. "Allow me to introduce you to the
Danish public," said he, and drew me forward to the lamps. The people
would laugh at me--I felt it; the tears rolled down my cheeks; I tore
myself loose, and left the stage full of anguish.

Shortly after this, Dahlen arranged a ballet of Armida, in which I
received a little part: I was a spirit. In this ballet I became
acquainted with the lady of Professor Heiberg, the wife of the poet,
and now a highly esteemed actress on the Danish stage; she, then a
little girl, had also a part in it, and our names stood printed in the
bill. That was a moment in my life, when my name was printed! I fancied
I could see it a nimbus of immortality. I was continually looking at
the printed paper. I carried the programme of the ballet with me at
night to bed, lay and read my name by candle light--in short, I was

I had now been two years in Copenhagen. The sum of money which had been
collected for me was expended, but I was ashamed of making known my
wants and my necessities. I had removed to the house of a woman whose
husband, when living, was master of a trading-vessel, and there I had
only lodging and breakfast. Those were heavy, dark days for me.

The lady believed that I went out to dine with various families, whilst
I only ate a little bread on one of the benches in the royal garden.
Very rarely did I venture into some of the lowest eating-houses, and
choose there the least expensive dish. I was, in truth, very forlorn;
but I did not feel the whole weight of my condition. Every person who
spoke to me kindly I took for a faithful friend. God was with me in my
little room; and many a night, when I have said my evening prayer, I
asked of Him, like a child, "Will things soon be better with me?" I had
the notion, that as it went with me on New Year's Day, so would it go
with me through the whole year; and my highest wishes were to obtain a
part in a play.

It was now New Year's Day. The theatre was closed, and only a half-
blind porter sat at the entrance to the stage, on which there was not a
soul. I stole past him with beating heart, got between the movable
scenes and the curtain, and advanced to the open part of the stage.
Here I fell down upon my knees, but not a single verse for declamation
could I recall to my memory. I then said aloud the Lord's Prayer, and
went out with the persuasion, that because I had spoken from the stage
on New Year's Day, I should in the course of the year succeed in
speaking still more, as well as in having a part assigned to me.

During the two years of my residence in Copenhagen I had never been out
into the open country. Once only had I been in the park, and there I
had been deeply engrossed by studying the diversions of the people and
their gay tumult. In the spring of the third year, I went out for the
first time amid the verdure of a spring morning. It was into the garden
of the Fredericksberg, the summer residence of Frederick VI. I stood
still suddenly under the first large budding beech tree. The sun made
the leaves transparent--there was a fragrance, a freshness--the birds
sang. I was overcome by it--I shouted aloud for joy, threw my arms
around the tree and kissed it.

"Is he mad?" said a man close behind me. It was one of the servants of
the castle. I ran away, shocked at what I had heard, and then went
thoughtfully and calmly back to the city.

My voice had, in the mean time, in part regained its richness. The
singing master of the choir-school heard it, offered me a place in the
school, thinking that, by singing with the choir, I should acquire
greater freedom in the exercise of my powers on the stage. I thought
that I could see by this means a new way opened for me. I went from the
dancing-school into the singing-school, and entered the choir, now as a
shepherd, and now as a warrior. The theatre was my world. I had
permission to go in the pit, and thus it fared ill with my Latin. I
heard many people say that there was no Latin required for singing in
the choir, and that without the knowledge of this language it was
possible to become a great actor. I thought there was good sense in
that, and very often, either with or without reason, excused myself
from my Latin evening lesson. Guldberg became aware of this, and for
the first time I received a reprimand which almost crushed me to the
earth. I fancy that no criminal could suffer more by hearing the
sentence of death pronounced upon him. My distress of mind must have
expressed itself in my countenance, for he said "Do not act any more
comedy." But it was no comedy to me.

I was now to learn Latin no longer. I felt my dependence upon the
kindness of others in such a degree as I had never done before.
Occasionally I had had gloomy and earnest thoughts in looking forward
to my future, because I was in want of the very necessaries of life; at
other times I had the perfect thoughtlessness of a child.

The widow of the celebrated Danish statesman, Christian Colbj¸rnsen,
and her daughter, were the first ladies of high rank who cordially
befriended the poor lad; who listened to me with sympathy, and saw me
frequently. Mrs. von Colbj¸rnsen resided, during the summer, at
Bakkehus, where also lived the poet Rahbek and his interesting wife.
Rahbek never spoke to me; but his lively and kind-hearted wife often
amused herself with me. I had at that time again begun to write a
tragedy, which I read aloud to her. Immediately on hearing the first
scenes, she exclaimed, "But you have actually taken whole passages out
of Oehlenschl ger and Ingemann."

"Yes, but they are so beautiful!" replied I in my simplicity, and read

One day, when I was going from her to Mrs. von Colbj¸rnsen, she gave me
a handful of roses, and said, "Will you take them up to her? It will
certainly give her pleasure to receive them from the hand of a poet."
These words were said half in jest; but it was the first time that
anybody had connected my name with that of poet. It went through me,
body and soul, and tears filled my eyes. I know that, from this very
moment, my mind was awoke to writing and poetry. Formerly it had been
merely an amusement by way of variety from my puppet-theatre.

At Bakkehus lived also Professor Thiele, a young student at that time,
but even then the editor of the Danish popular legends, and known to
the public as the solver of Baggesen's riddle, and as the writer of
beautiful poetry. He was possessed of sentiment, true inspiration, and
heart. He had calmly and attentively watched the unfolding of my mind,
until we now became friends. He was one of the few who, at that time,
spoke the truth of me, when other people were making themselves merry
at my expense, and having only eyes for that which was ludicrous in me.
People had called me, in jest, the little orator, and, as such, I was
an object of curiosity. They found amusement in me, and I mistook every
smile for a smile of applause. One of my later friends has told me that
it probably was about this period that he saw me for the first time. It
was in the drawing-room of a rich tradesman, where people were making
themselves very merry with me. They desired me to repeat one of my
poems, and, as I did this with great feeling, the merriment was changed
into sympathy with me.

I heard it said every day, what a good thing it would be for me if I
could study. People advised me to devote myself to science, but no one
moved one step to enable me to do so; it was labor enough for me to
keep body and soul together. It therefore occurred to me to write a
tragedy, which I would offer to the Theatre Royal, and would then begin
to study with the money which I should thus obtain. Whilst Guldberg
instructed me in Danish, I had written a tragedy from a German story,
called The Chapel in the Wood; yet as this was done merely as an
exercise in the language, and, as he forbade me in the most decided
manner to bring it out, I would not do so. I originated my own
material, therefore; and within fourteen days I wrote my national
tragedy called the Robbers in Wissenberg (the name of a little village
in Funen.) There was scarcely a word in it correctly written, as I had
no person to help me, because I meant it to be anonymous; there was,
nevertheless, one person admitted into the secret, namely, the young
lady whom I had met with in Odense, during my preparation for
confirmation, the only one who at that time showed me kindness and
good-will. It was through her that I was introduced to the Colbj¸rnsen
family, and thus known and received in all those circles of which the
one leads into the other. She paid some one to prepare a legible copy
of my piece, and undertook to present it for perusal. After an interval
of six weeks, I received it back, accompanied by a letter which said
the people did not frequently wish to retain works which betrayed, in
so great a degree, a want of elementary knowledge.

It was just at the close of the theatrical season, in May, 1823, that I
received a letter from the directors, by which I was dismissed from the
singing and dancing school, the letter adding also, that my
participation in the school-teaching could lead to no advantage for me,
but that they wished some of my many friends would enable me to receive
an education, without which, talent availed nothing. I felt myself
again, as it were, cast out into the wide world without help and
without support. It was absolutely necessary that I should write a
piece for the theatre, and that _must_ be accepted; there was no
other salvation for me. I wrote, therefore, a tragedy founded on a
passage in history, and I called it Alfsol. I was delighted with the
first act, and with this I immediately went to the Danish translator of
Shakspeare, Admiral Wulff, now deceased, who good-naturedly heard me
read it. In after years I met with the most cordial reception in his
family. At that time I also introduced myself to our celebrated
physician Oersted, and his house has remained to me to this day an
affectionate home, to which my heart has firmly attached itself, and
where I find my oldest and most unchangeable friends.

A favorite preacher, the rural dean Gutfeldt, was living at that time,
and he it was who exerted himself most earnestly for my tragedy, which
was now finished; and having written a letter of recommendation, he
sent it to the managers of the theatre. I was suspended between hope
and fear. In the course of the summer I endured bitter want, but I told
it to no one, else many a one, whose sympathy I had experienced, would
have helped me to the utmost of their means. A false shame prevented me
from confessing what I endured. Still happiness filled my heart. I read
then for the first time the works of Walter Scott. A new world was
opened to me: I forgot the reality, and gave to the circulating library
that which should have provided me with a dinner.

The present conference councillor, Collin, one of the most
distinguished men of Denmark, who unites with the greatest ability the
noblest and best heart, to whom I looked up with confidence in all
things, who has been a second father to me, and in whose children I
have found brothers and sisters;--this excellent man I saw now for the
first time. He was at that time director of the Theatre Royal, and
people universally told me that it would be the best thing for me if he
would interest himself on my behalf: it was either Oersted or Gutfeldt
who first mentioned me to him; and now for the first time I went to
that house which was to become so dear to me. Before the ramparts of
Copenhagen were extended, this house lay outside the gate, and served
as a summer residence to the Spanish Ambassador; now, however, it
stands, a crooked, angular frame-work building, in a respectable
street; an old-fashioned wooden balcony leads to the entrance, and a
great tree spreads its green branches over the court and its pointed
gables. It was to become a paternal house to me. Who does not willingly
linger over the description of home?

I discovered only the man of business in Collin; his conversation was
grave and in few words. I went away, without expecting any sympathy
from this man; and yet it was precisely Collin who in all sincerity
thought for my advantage, and who worked for it silently, as he had
done for others, through the whole course of his active life. But at
that time I did not understand the apparent calmness with which he
listened, whilst his heart bled for the afflicted, and he always
labored for them with zeal and success, and knew how to help them. He
touched so lightly upon my tragedy, which had been sent to him, and on
account of which many people had overwhelmed me with flattering
speeches, that I regarded him rather as an enemy than a protector.

In a few day I was sent for by the directors of the theatre, when
Rahbek gave me back my play as useless for the stage; adding, however,
that there were so many grains of corn scattered in it, that it was
hoped, that perhaps, by earnest study, after going to school and the
previous knowledge of all that is requisite, I might, some time, be
able to write a work which should be worthy of being acted on the
Danish stage.

In order therefore to obtain the means for my support and the necessary
instruction, Collin recommended me to King Frederick the Sixth, who
granted to me a certain sum annually for some years; and, by means of
Collin also, the directors of the high schools allowed me to receive
free instruction in the grammar school at Slagelse, where just then a
new, and, as was said, an active rector was appointed. I was almost
dumb with astonishment: never had I thought that my life would take
this direction, although I had no correct idea of the path which I had
now to tread. I was to go with the earliest mail to Slagelse, which lay
twelve Danish miles from Copenhagen, to the place where also the poets
Baggesen and Ingemann had gone to school. I was to receive money
quarterly from Collin; I was to apply to him in all cases, and he it
was who was to ascertain my industry and my progress.

I went to him the second time to express to him my thanks. Mildly and
kindly he said to me, "Write to me without restraint about everything
which you require, and tell me how it goes with you." From this hour I
struck root in his heart; no father could have been more to me than he
was, and is; none could have more heartily rejoiced in my happiness,
and my after reception with the public; none have shared my sorrow more
kindly; and I am proud to say that one of the most excellent men which
Denmark possesses feels towards me as towards his own child. His
beneficence was conferred without his making me feel it painful either
by word or look. That was not the case with every one to whom, in this
change of my fortunes, I had to offer my thanks; I was told to think of
my inconceivable happiness and my poverty; in Collin's words was
expressed the warm-heartedness of a father, and to him it was that
properly I was indebted for everything.

The journey was hastily determined upon, and I had yet for myself some
business to arrange. I had spoken to an acquaintance from Odense who
had the management of a small printing concern, for a widow, to get
"Alfsal" printed, that I might, by the sale of the work, make a little
money. Before, however, the piece was printed, it was necessary that I
should obtain a certain number of subscribers; but these were not
obtained, and the manuscript lay in the printing-office, which, at the
time I went to fetch it away, was shut up. Some years afterwards,
however, it suddenly made its appearance in print without my knowledge
or my desire, in its unaltered shape, but without my name.

On a beautiful autumn day I set off with the mail from Copenhagen to
begin my school-life in Slagelse. A young student, who a month before
had passed his first examination, and now was travelling home to
Jutland to exhibit himself there as a student, and to see once more his
parents and his friends, sate at my side and exulted for joy over the
new life which now lay before him; he assured me that he should be the
most unhappy of human beings if he were in my place, and were again
beginning to go to the grammar school. But I travelled with a good
heart towards the little city of Zealand. My mother received a joyful
letter from me. I only wished that my father and the old grandmother
yet lived, and could hear that I now went to the grammar school.


When, late in the evening, I arrived at the inn in Slagelse, I asked
the hostess if there were anything remarkable in the city.

"Yes," said she, "a new English fire-engine and Pastor Bastholm's
library," and those probably were all the lions in the city. A few
officers of the Lancers composed the fine-gentleman world. Everybody
knew what was done in everybody's house, whether a scholar was elevated
or degraded in his class, and the like. A private theatre, to which, at
general rehearsal, the scholars of the grammar school and the maid-
servants of the town had free entrance, furnished rich material for
conversation. The place was remote from woods, and still farther from
the coast; but the great post-road went through the city, and the post-
horn resounded from the rolling carriage.

I boarded with a respectable widow of the educated class, and had a
little chamber looking out into the garden and field. My place in the
school was in the lowest class, among little boys:--I knew indeed
nothing at all.

I was actually like a wild bird which is confined in a cage; I had the
greatest desire to learn, but for the moment I floundered about, as if
I had been thrown into the sea; the one wave followed another; grammar,
geography, mathematics--I felt myself overpowered by them, and feared
that I should never be able to acquire all these. The rector, who took
a peculiar delight in turning everything to ridicule, did not, of
course, make an exception in my case. To me he stood then as a
divinity; I believed unconditionally every word which he spoke. One
day, when I had replied incorrectly to his question, and he said that I
was stupid, I mentioned it to Collin, and told him my anxiety, lest I
did not deserve all that people had done for me; but he consoled me.
Occasionally, however, on some subjects of instruction, I began to
receive a good certificate, and the teachers were heartily kind to me;
yet, notwithstanding that I advanced, I still lost confidence in myself
more and more. On one of the first examinations, however, I obtained
the praise of the rector. He wrote the same in my character-book; and,
happy in this, I went a few days afterwards to Copenhagen. Guldberg,
who saw the progress I had made, received me kindly, and commended my
zeal; and his brother in Odense furnished me the next summer with the
means of visiting the place of my birth, where I had not been since I
left it to seek adventures. I crossed the Belt, and went on foot to
Odense. When I came near enough to see the lofty old church tower, my
heart was more and more affected; I felt deeply the care of God for me,
and I burst into tears. My mother rejoiced over me. The families of
Iversen and Guldberg received me cordially; and in the little streets I
saw the people open their windows to look after me, for everybody knew
how remarkably well things had fared with me; nay, I fancied I actually
stood upon the pinnacle of fortune, when one of the principal citizens,
who had built a high tower to his house, led me up there, and I looked
out thence over the city, and the surrounding country, and some old
women in the hospital below, who had known me from childhood, pointed
up to me.

As soon, however, as I returned to Slagelse, this halo of glory
vanished, as well as every thought of it. I may freely confess that I
was industrious, and I rose, as soon as it was possible, into a higher
class; but in proportion as I rose did I feel the pressure upon me more
strongly, and that my endeavors were not sufficiently productive. Many
an evening, when sleep overcame me, did I wash my head with cold water,
or run about the lonely little garden, till I was again wakeful, and
could comprehend the book anew. The rector filled up a portion of his
hours of teaching with jests, nicknames, and not the happiest of
witticisms. I was as if paralyzed with anxiety when he entered the
room, and from that cause my replies often expressed the opposite of
that which I wished to say, and thereby my anxiety was all the more
increased. What was to become of me?

In a moment of ill-humor I wrote a letter to the head master, who was
one of those who was most cordially opposed to me. I said in this
letter that I regarded myself as a person so little gifted by nature,
that it was impossible for me to study, and that the people in
Copenhagen threw away the money which they spent upon me: I besought
him therefore to counsel me what I should do. The excellent man
strengthened me with mild words, and wrote to me a most friendly and
consolatory letter; he said that the rector meant kindly by me--that it
was his custom and way of acting--that I was making all the progress
that people could expect from me, and that I need not doubt of my
abilities. He told me that he himself was a peasant youth of three and
twenty, older than I myself was, when he began his studies; the
misfortune for me was, that I ought to have been treated differently to
the other scholars, but that this could hardly be done in a school; but
that things were progressing, and that I stood well both with the
teachers and my fellow students.

Every Sunday we had to attend the church and hear an old preacher; the
other scholars learned their lessons in history and mathematics while
he preached; I learned my task in religion, and thought that, by so
doing, it was less sinful. The general rehearsals at the private
theatre were points of light in my school life; they took place in a
back building, where the lowing of the cows might be heard; the street-
decoration was a picture of the marketplace of the city, by which means
the representation had something familiar about it; it amused the
inhabitants to see their own houses.

On Sunday afternoons it was my delight to go to the castle of
Antvorskov, at that time only half ruinous, and once a monastery, where
I pursued the excavating of the ruined cellars, as if it had been a
Pompeii. I also often rambled to the crucifix of St. Anders, which
stands upon one of the heights of Slagelse, and which is one of the
wooden crosses erected in the time of Catholicism in Denmark. St.
Anders was a priest in Slagelse, and travelled to the Holy Land; on the
last day he remained so long praying on the holy grave, that the ship
sailed away without him. Vexed at this circumstance, he walked along
the shore, where a man met him riding on an ass, and took him up with
him. Immediately he fell asleep, and when he awoke he heard the bells
of Slagelse ringing. He lay upon the (Hvileh¸i) hill of rest, where the
cross now stands. He was at home a year and a day before the ship
returned, which had sailed away without him, and an angel had borne him
home. The legend, and the place where he woke, were both favorites of
mine. From this spot I could see the ocean and Funen. Here I could
indulge my fancies; when at home, my sense of duty chained my thoughts
only to my books.

The happiest time, however, was when, once on a Sunday, whilst the wood
was green, I went to the city of Sor¸, two (Danish) miles from
Slagelse, and which lies in the midst of woods, surrounded by lakes.
Here is an academy for the nobility, founded by the poet Holberg.
Everything lay in a conventual stillness. I visited here the poet
Ingemann, who had just married, and who held a situation as teacher; he
had already received me kindly in Copenhagen; but here his reception of
me was still more kind. His life in this place seemed to me like a
beautiful story; flowers and vines twined around his window; the rooms
were adorned with the portraits of distinguished poets, and other
pictures. We sailed upon the lake with an Aeolian harp made fast to the
mast. Ingemann talked so cheerfully, and his excellent, amiable wife
treated me as if she were an elder sister:--I loved these people. Our
friendship has grown with years. I have been from that time almost
every summer a welcome guest there, and I have experienced that there
are people in whose society one is made better, as it were; that which
is bitter passes away, and the whole world appears in sunlight.

Among the pupils in the academy of nobles, there were two who made
verses; they knew that I did the same, and they attached themselves to
me. The one was Petit, who afterwards, certainly with the best
intention, but not faithfully, translated several of my books; the
other, the poet Karl Bagger, one of the most gifted of men who has come
forward in Danish literature, but who has been unjustly judged. His
poems are full of freshness and originality; his story, "The Life of my
Brother," is a genial book, by the critique on which the Danish Monthly
Review of Literature has proved that it does not understand how to give
judgment. These two academicians were very different from me: life
rushed rejoicingly through their veins; I was sensitive and childlike.
In my character-book I always received, as regarded my conduct,
"remarkably good." On one occasion, however, I only obtained the
testimony of "very good;" and so anxious and childlike was I, that I
wrote a letter to Collin on that account, and assured him in grave
earnestness, that I was perfectly innocent, although I had only
obtained a character of "very good."

The rector grew weary of his residence in Slagelse; he applied for the
vacant post of rector in the grammar-school of Helsing¸r, and obtained
it. He told me of it, and added kindly, that I might write to Collin
and ask leave to accompany him thither; that I might live in his house,
and could even now remove to his family; I should then in half a year
become a student, which could not be the case if I remained behind, and
that then he would himself give me some private lessons in Latin and
Greek. On this same occasion he wrote also to Collin; and this letter,
which I afterwards saw, contained the greatest praise of my industry,
of the progress I had made, and of my good abilities, which last I
imagined that he thoroughly mistook, and for the want of which, I
myself had so often wept. I had no conception that he judged of me so
favorably; it would have strengthened and relieved me had I known it;
whereas, on the contrary, his perpetual blame depressed me. I, of
course, immediately received Collin's permission, and removed to the
house of the rector. But that, alas! was an unfortunate house.

I accompanied him to Helsing¸r, one of the loveliest places in Denmark,
close to the Sound, which is at this place not above a mile (Danish)
broad, and which seems like a blue, swelling river between Denmark and
Sweden. The ships of all nations sail past daily by hundreds; in winter
the ice forms a firm bridge between the two countries, and when in
spring this breaks up, it resembles a floating glacier. The scenery
here made a lively impression upon me, but I dared only to cast stolen
glances at it. When the school hours were over, the house door was
commonly locked; I was obliged to remain in the heated school-room and
learn my Latin, or else play with the children, or sit in my little
room; I never went out to visit anybody. My life in this family
furnishes the most evil dreams to my remembrance. I was almost overcome
by it, and my prayer to God every evening was, that he would remove
this cup from me and let me die. I possessed not an atom of confidence
in myself. I never mentioned in my letters how hard it went with me,
because the rector found his pleasure in making a jest of me, and
turning my feelings to ridicule. I never complained of any one, with
the exception of myself. I knew that they would say in Copenhagen, "He
has not the desire to do any thing; a fanciful being can do no good
with realities."

My letters to Collin, written at this time, showed such a gloomy
despairing state of mind, that they touched him deeply; but people
imagined that was not to be helped; they fancied that it was my
disposition, and not, as was the case, that it was the consequence of
outward influences. My temper of mind was thoroughly buoyant, and
susceptible of every ray of sunshine; but only on one single holiday in
the year, when I could go to Copenhagen, was I able to enjoy it.

What a change it was to get for a few days out of the rector's rooms
into a house in Copenhagen, where all was elegance, cleanliness, and
full of the comforts of refined life! This was at Admiral Wulff's,
whose wife felt for me the kindness of a mother, and whose children met
me with cordiality; they dwelt in a portion of the Castle of
Amalienburg, and my chamber looked out into the square. I remember the
first evening there; Aladdin's words passed through my mind, when he
looked down from his splendid castle into the square, and said, "Here
came I as a poor lad." My soul was full of gratitude.

During my whole residence in Slagelse I had scarcely written more than
four or five poems; two of which, "The Soul," and "To my Mother," will
be found printed in my collected works. During my school-time at
Helsing¸r I wrote only one single poem, "The Dying Child;" a poem
which, of all my after works, became most popular and most widely
circulated. I read it to some acquaintance in Copenhagen; some were
struck by it, but most of them only remarked my Funen dialect, which
drops the d in every word. I was commended by many; but from the
greater number I received a lecture on modesty, and that I should not
get too great ideas of myself--I who really at that time thought
nothing of myself. [Footnote: How beautifully is all this part of the
author's experience reflected in that of Antonio, the Improvisatore,
whose highly sensitive nature was too often wounded by the well-meant
lectures of patrons and common-place minds.--M. H.]

At the house of Admiral Wulff I saw many men of the most distinguished
talent, and among them all my mind paid the greatest homage to one--
that was the poet Adam Oehlenschl ger. I heard his praise resound from
every mouth around me; I looked up to him with the most pious faith: I
was happy when one evening, in a large brilliantly-lighted drawing
room--where I deeply felt that my apparel was the shabbiest there, and
for that reason I concealed myself behind the long curtains--
Oehlenschl ger came to me and offered me his hand. I could have fallen
before him on my knees. I again saw Weyse, and heard him improvise upon
the piano. Wulff himself read aloud his translations of Byron; and
Oehlenschl ger's young daughter Charlotte surprised me by her joyous,
merry humor.

From such a house as this, I, after a few days, returned to the rector,
and felt the difference deeply. He also came direct from Copenhagen,
where he had heard it said that I had read in company one of my own
poems. He looked at me with a penetrating glance, and commanded me to
bring him the poem, when, if he found in it one spark of poetry, he
would forgive me. I tremblingly brought to him "The Dying Child;" he
read it, and pronounced it to be sentimentality and idle trash. He gave
way freely to his anger. If he had believed that I wasted my time in
writing verses, or that I was of a nature which required a severe
treatment, then his intention would have been good; but he could not
pretend this. But from this day forward my situation was more
unfortunate than ever; I suffered so severely in my mind that I was
very near sinking under it. That was the darkest, the most unhappy time
in my life.

Just then one of the masters went to Copenhagen, and related to Collin
exactly what I had to bear, and immediately he removed me from the
school and from the rector's house. When, in taking leave of him, I
thanked him for the kindness which I had received from him, the
passionate man cursed me, and ended by saying that I should never
become a student, that my verses would grow mouldy on the floor of the
bookseller's shop, and that I myself should end my days in a mad-house.
I trembled to my innermost being, and left him.

Several years afterwards, when my writings were read, when the
Improvisatore first came out, I met him in Copenhagen; he offered me
his hand in a conciliatory manner, and said that he had erred
respecting me, and had treated me wrong; but it now was all the same to
me. The heavy, dark days had also produced their blessing in my life. A
young man, who afterwards became celebrated in Denmark for his zeal in
the Northern languages and in history, became my teacher. I hired a
little garret; it is described in the Fiddler; and in The Picture Book
without Pictures, people may see that I often received there visits
from the moon. I had a certain sum allowed for my support; but as
instruction was to be paid for, I had to make savings in other ways. A
few families through the week-days gave me a place at their tables. I
was a sort of boarder, as many another poor student in Copenhagen is
still: there was a variety in it; it gave an insight into the several
kinds of family life, which was not without its influence on me. I
studied industriously; in some particular branches I had considerably
distinguished myself in Helsing¸r, especially in mathematics; these
were, therefore, now much more left to myself: everything tended to
assist me in my Greek and Latin studies; in one direction, however, and
that the one in which it would least have been expected, did my
excellent teacher find much to do; namely, in religion. He closely
adhered to the literal meaning of the Bible; with this I was
acquainted, because from my first entrance in the school I had clearly
understood what was said and taught by it. I received gladly, both with
feeling and understanding, the doctrine, that God is love: everything
which opposed this--a burning hell, therefore, whose fire endured
forever--I could not recognize. Released from the distressing existence
of the school-bench, I now expressed myself like a free man; and my
teacher, who was one of the noblest and most amiable of human beings,
but who adhered firmly to the letter, was often quite distressed about
me. We disputed, whilst pure flames kindled within our hearts. It was
nevertheless good for me that I came to this unspoiled, highly-gifted
young man, who was possessed of a nature as peculiar as my own.

That which, on the contrary, was an error in me, and which became very
perceptible, was a pleasure which I had, not in jesting with, but in
playing with my best feelings, and in regarding the understanding as
the most important thing in the world. The rector had completely
mistaken my undisguisedly candid and sensitive character; my excitable
feelings were made ridiculous, and thrown back upon themselves; and
now, when I could freely advance upon the way to my object, this change
showed itself in me. From severe suffering I did not rush into
libertinism, but into an erroneous endeavor to appear other than I was.
I ridiculed feeling, and fancied that I had quite thrown it aside; and
yet I could be made wretched for a whole day, if I met with a sour
countenance where I expected a friendly one. Every poem which I had
formerly written with tears, I now parodied, or gave to it a ludicrous
refrain; one of which I called "The Lament of the Kitten," another,
"The Sick Poet." The few poems which I wrote at that time were all of a
humorous character: a complete change had passed over me; the stunted
plant was reset, and now began to put forth new shoots.

Wulff's eldest daughter, a very clever and lively girl, understood and
encouraged the humor, which made itself evident in my few poems; she
possessed my entire confidence; she protected me like a good sister,
and had great influence over me, whilst she awoke in me a feeling for
the comic.

At this time, also, a fresh current of life was sent through the Danish
literature; for this the people had an interest, and politics played no
part in it.

Heiberg, who had gained the acknowledged reputation of a poet by his
excellent works, "Psyche" and "Walter the Potter," had introduced the
vaudeville upon the Danish stage; it was a Danish vaudeville, blood of
our blood, and was therefore received with acclamation, and supplanted
almost everything else. Thalia kept carnival on the Danish stage, and
Heiberg was her secretary. I made his acquaintance first at Oersted's.
Refined, eloquent, and the hero of the day, he pleased me in a high
degree; he was most kind to me, and I visited him; he considered one of
my humorous poems worthy of a place in his most excellent weekly paper,
"The Flying Post." Shortly before I had, after a deal of trouble, got
my poem of "The Dying Child" printed in a paper; none of the many
publishers of journals, who otherwise accept of the most lamentable
trash, had the courage to print a poem by a schoolboy. My best known
poem they printed at that time, accompanied by an excuse for it.
Heiberg saw it, and gave it in his paper an honorable place. Two
humorous poems, signed H., were truly my d but with him.

I remember the first evening when the "Flying Post" appeared with my
verses in it. I was with a family who wished me well, but who regarded
my poetical talent as quite insignificant, and who found something to
censure in every line. The master of the house entered with the "Flying
Post" in his hand.

"This evening," said he, "there are two excellent poems: they are by
Heiberg; nobody else could write anything like them." And now my poems
were received with rapture. The daughter, who was in my secret,
exclaimed, in her delight, that I was the author. They were all struck
into silence, and were vexed. That wounded me deeply.

One of our least esteemed writers, but a man of rank, who was very
hospitable, gave me one day a seat at his table. He told me that a new
year's gift would come out, and that he was applied to for a
contribution. I said that a little poem of mine, at the wish of the
publisher, would appear in the same new year's gift.

"What, then, everybody and anybody are to contribute to this book!"
said the man in vexation: "then he will need nothing from me; I
certainly can hardly give him anything."

My teacher dwelt at a considerable distance from me. I went to him
twice each day, and on the way there my thoughts were occupied with my
lessons. On my return, however, I breathed more freely, and then bright
poetical ideas passed through my brain, but they were never committed
to paper; only five or six humorous poems were written in the course of
the year, and these disturbed me less when they were laid to rest on
paper than if they had remained in my mind.

In September, 1828, I was a student; and when the examination was over,
the thousand ideas and thoughts, by which I was pursued on the way to
my teacher, flew like a swarm of bees out into the world, and, indeed,
into my first work, "A Journey on Foot to Amack;" a peculiar, humorous
book, but one which fully exhibited my own individual character at that
time, my disposition to sport with everything, and to jest in tears
over my own feelings--a fantastic, gaily-colored tapestry-work. No
publisher had the courage to bring out that little book; I therefore
ventured to do it myself, and, in a few days after its appearance, the
impression was sold. Publisher Keitzel bought from me the second
edition; after a while he had a third; and besides this, the work was
reprinted in Sweden.

Everybody read my book; I heard nothing but praise; I was "a student,"
--I had attained the highest goal of my wishes. I was in a whirl of joy;
and in this state I wrote my first dramatic work, "Love on the Nicholas
Tower, or, What says the Pit?" It was unsuccessful, because it
satirized that which no longer existed amongst us, namely, the shows of
the middle ages; besides which, it rather ridiculed the enthusiasm for
the vaudeville. The subject of it was, in short, as follows:--The
watchman of the Nicholas Tower, who always spoke as a knight of the
castle, wished to give his daughter to the watchman of the neighboring
church-tower; but she loved a young tailor, who had made a journey to
the grave of Eulenspiegel, and was just now returned, as the punch-bowl
steamed, and was to be emptied in honor of the young lady's consent
being given. The lovers escape together to the tailor's herberg, where
dancing and merriment are going forward. The watchman, however, fetches
back his daughter; but she had lost her senses, and she assured them
that she never would recover them, unless she had her tailor. The old
watchman determines that Fate should decide the affair; but, then, who
was Fate? The idea then comes into his head that the public shall be
his Pythia, and that the public shall decide whether she should have
the tailor or the watchman. They determine, therefore, to send to one
of the youngest of the poets, and beg him to write the history in the
style of the vaudeville, a kind of writing which was the most
successful at that time, and when the piece was brought upon the stage,
and the public either whistled or hissed, it should be in no wise
considered that the work of the young author had been unsuccessful, but
that it should be the voice of Fate, which said, "She shall marry the
watchman." If, on the contrary, the piece was successful, it indicated
that she should have the tailor; and this last, remarked the father,
must be said in prose, in order that the public may understand it. Now
every one of the characters thought himself on the stage, where in the
epilogue the lovers besought the public for their applause, whilst the
watchman begged them either to whistle, or at least to hiss.

My fellow students received the piece with acclamation; they were proud
of me. I was the second of their body who in this year had brought out
a piece on the Danish stage; the other was Arnesen, student at the same
time with me, and author of a vaudeville called "The Intrigue in the
People's Theatre," a piece which had a great run. We were the two young
authors of the October examination, two of the sixteen poets which this
year produced, and whom people in jest divided into the four great and
the twelve small poets.

I was now a happy human being; I possessed the soul of a poet, and the
heart of youth; all houses began to be open to me; I flew from circle
to circle. Still, however, I devoted myself industriously to study, so
that in September, 1829, I passed my _Examen philologicum et
philosophicum_, and brought out the first collected edition of my
poems, which met with great praise. Life lay bright with sunshine
before me.


Until now I had only seen a small part of my native land, that is to
say, a few points in Funen and Zealand, as well as Moen's Klint, which
last is truly one of our most beautiful places; the beechwoods there
hang like a garland over the white chalk cliffs, from which a view is
obtained far over the Baltic. I wished, therefore, in the summer of
1830, to devote my first literary proceeds to seeing Jutland, and
making myself more thoroughly acquainted with my own Funen. I had no
idea how much solidity of mind I should derive from this summer
excursion, or what a change was about to take place in my inner life.

Jutland, which stretches between the German Ocean and the Baltic, until
it ends at Skagen in a reef of quicksands, possesses a peculiar
character. Towards the Baltic extend immense woods and hills; towards
the North Sea, mountains and quicksands, scenery of a grand and
solitary character; and between the two, infinite expanses of brown
heath, with their wandering gipsies, their wailing birds, and their
deep solitude, which the Danish poet, Steen Blicher, has described in
his novels.

This was the first foreign scenery which I had ever seen, and the
impression, therefore, which it made upon me was very strong.
[Footnote: This impressive and wild scenery, with its characteristic
figures, of gipsies etc., is most exquisitely introduced into the
author's novel of "O. T."; indeed it gives a coloring and tone to the
whole work, which the reader never can forget. In my opinion Andersen
never wrote anything finer in the way of description than many parts of
this work, though as a story it is not equal to his others.--M. H.] In
the cities, where my "Journey on Foot" and my comic poems were known, I
met with a good reception. Funen revealed her rural life to me; and,
not far from my birth-place of Odense, I passed several weeks at the
country seat of the elder Iversen as a welcome guest. Poems sprung
forth upon paper, but of the comic fewer and fewer. Sentiment, which I
had so often derided, would now be avenged. I arrived, in the course of
my journey, at the house of a rich family in a small city; and here
suddenly a new world opened before me, an immense world, which yet
could be contained in four lines, which I wrote at that time:--

A pair of dark eyes fixed my sight,
They were my world, my home, my delight,
The soul beamed in them, and childlike peace,
And never on earth will their memory cease.

New plans of life occupied me. I would give up writing poetry,--to what
could it lead? I would study theology, and become a preacher; I had
only one thought, and that was _she_. But it was self-delusion:
she loved another; she married him. It was not till several years later
that I felt and acknowledged that it was best, both for her and for
myself, that things had fallen out as they were. She had no idea,
perhaps, how deep my feeling for her had been, or what an influence it
produced in me. She had become the excellent wife of a good man, and a
happy mother. God's blessing rest upon her!

In my "Journey on Foot," and in most of my writings, satire had been
the prevailing characteristic. This displeased many people, who thought
that this bent of mind could lead to no good purpose. The critics now
blamed me precisely for that which a far deeper feeling had expelled
from my breast. A new collection of Poetry, "Fancies and Sketches,"
which was published for the new year, showed satisfactorily what my
heart suffered. A paraphrase of the history of my own heart appeared in
a serious vaudeville, "Parting and Meeting," with this difference only,
that here the love was mutual: the piece was not presented on the stage
till five years later.

Among my young friends in Copenhagen at that time was Orla Lehmann, who
afterwards rose higher in popular favor, on account of his political
efforts than any man in Denmark. Full of animation, eloquent and
undaunted, his character of mind was one which interested me also. The
German language was much studied at his father's; they had received
there Heine's poems, and they were very attractive for young Orla. He
lived in the country, in the neighborhood of the castle of
Fredericksberg. I went there to see him, and he sang as I came one of
Heine's verses, "Thalatta, Thalatta, du eviges Meer." We read Heine
together; the afternoon and the evening passed, and I was obliged to
remain there all night; but I had on this evening made the acquaintance
of a poet, who, as it seemed to me, sang from the soul; he supplanted
Hoffman, who, as might be seen by my "Journey on Foot," had formerly
had the greatest influence on me. In my youth there were only three
authors who as it were infused themselves into my blood,--Walter Scott,
Hoffman, and Heine.

I betrayed more and more in my writings an unhealthy turn of mind. I
felt an inclination to seek for the melancholy in life, and to linger
on the dark side of things. I became sensitive and thought rather of
the blame than the praise which was lavished on me. My late school
education, which was forced, and my impulse to become an author whilst
I was yet a student, make it evident that my first work, the "Journey
on Foot," was not without grammatical errors. Had I only paid some one
to correct the press, which was a work I was unaccustomed to, then no
charge of this kind could have been brought against me. Now, on the
contrary, people laughed at these errors, and dwelt upon them, passing
over carelessly that in the book which had merit. I know people who
only read my poems to find out errors; they noted down, for instance,
how often I used the word _beautiful,_ or some similar word. A
gentleman, now a clergyman, at that time a writer of vaudevilles and a
critic, was not ashamed, in a company where I was, to go through
several of my poems in this style; so that a little girl of six years
old, who heard with amazement that he discovered everything to be
wrong, took the book, and pointing out the conjunction _and,_
said, "There is yet a little word about which you have not scolded." He
felt what a reproof lay in the remark of the child; he looked ashamed
and kissed the little one. All this wounded me; but I had, since my
school-days, become somewhat timid, and that caused me to take it all
quietly: I was morbidly sensitive, and I was good-natured to a fault.
Everybody knew it, and some were on that account almost cruel to me.
Everybody wished to teach me; almost everybody said that I was spoiled
by praise, and therefore they would speak the truth to me. Thus I heard
continually of my faults, the real and the ideal weaknesses. In the
mean time, however, my feelings burst forth; and then I said that I
would become a poet whom they should see honored. But this was regarded
only as the crowning mark of the most unbearable vanity; and from house
to house it was repeated. I was a good man, they said, but one of the
vainest in existence; and in that very time I was often ready wholly to
despair of my abilities, and had, as in the darkest days of my school-
life, a feeling, as if my whole talents were a self-deception. I almost
believed so; but it was more than I could bear, to hear the same thing
said, sternly and jeeringly, by others; and if I then uttered a proud,
an inconsiderate word, it was addressed to the scourge with which I was
smitten; and when those who smite are those we love, then do the
scourges become scorpions.

For this reason Collin thought that I should make a little journey,--
for instance, to North Germany,--in order to divert my mind and furnish
me with new ideas.

In the spring of 1831, I left Denmark for the first time. I saw L bek
and Hamburg. Everything astonished me and occupied my mind. I saw
mountains for the first time,--the Harzgebirge. The world expanded so
astonishingly before me. My good humor returned to me, as to the bird
of passage. Sorrow is the flock of sparrows which remains behind, and
builds in the nests of the birds of passage. But I did not feel myself
wholly restored.

In Dresden I made acquaintance with Tieck. Ingemann had given me a
letter to him. I heard him one evening read aloud one of Shakspeare's
plays. On taking leave of him, he wished me a poet's success, embraced
and kissed me; which made the deepest impression upon me. The
expression of his eyes I shall never forget. I left him with tears, and
prayed most fervently to God for strength to enable me to pursue the
way after which my whole soul strove--strength, which should enable me
to express that which I felt in my soul; and that when I next saw
Tieck, I might be known and valued by him. It was not until several
years afterwards, when my later works were translated into German, and
well received in his country, that we saw each other again; I felt the
true hand-pressure of him who had given to me, in my second father-
land, the kiss of consecration.

In Berlin, a letter of Oersted's procured me the acquaintance of
Chamisso. That grave man, with his long locks and honest eyes, opened
the door to me himself, read the letter, and I know not how it was, but
we understood each other immediately. I felt perfect confidence in him,
and told him so, though it was in bad German. Chamisso understood
Danish; I gave him my poems, and he was the first who translated any of
them, and thus introduced me into Germany. It was thus he spoke of me
at that time in the _Morgenblatt_: "Gifted with wit, fancy, humor,
and a national na vet , Andersen has still in his power tones which
awaken deeper echoes. He understands, in particular, how with perfect
ease, by a few slight but graphic touches, to call into existence
little pictures and landscapes, but which are often so peculiarly local
as not to interest those who are unfamiliar with the home of the poet.
Perhaps that which may be translated from him, or which is so already,
may be the least calculated to give a proper idea of him."

Chamisso became a friend for my whole life. The pleasure which he had
in my later writings may be seen by the printed letters addressed to me
in the collected edition of his works.

The little journey in Germany had great influence upon me, as my
Copenhagen friends acknowledged. The impressions of the journey were
immediately written down, and I gave them forth under the title of
"Shadow Pictures." Whether I were actually improved or not, there still
prevailed at home the same petty pleasure in dragging out my faults,
the same perpetual schooling of me; and I was weak enough to endure it
from those who were officious meddlers. I seldom made a joke of it; but
if I did so, it was called arrogance and vanity, and it was asserted
that I never would listen to rational people. Such an instructor once
asked me whether I wrote _Dog_ with a little _d_;--he had found
such an error of the press in my last work. I replied, jestingly, "Yes,
because I here spoke of a little dog."

But these are small troubles, people will say. Yes, but they are drops
which wear hollows in the rock. I speak of it here; I feel a necessity
to do so; here to protest against the accusation of vanity, which,
since no other error can be discovered in my private life, is seized
upon, and even now is thrown at me like an old medal.

From the end of the year 1828, to the beginning of 1839, I maintained
myself alone by my writings. Denmark is a small country; but few books
at that time went to Sweden and Norway; and on that account the profit
could not be great. It was difficult for me to pull through,--doubly
difficult, because my dress must in some measure accord with the
circles into which I went. To produce, and always to be producing, was
destructive, nay, impossible. I translated a few pieces for the
theatre,--_La Quarantaine_, and _La Reine de seize ans_; and
as, at that time, a young composer of the name of Hartmann, a grandson
of him who composed the Danish folks-song of "King Christian stood by
the tall, tall mast," wished for text to an opera, I was of course
ready to write it. Through the writings of Hoffman, my attention had
been turned to the masked comedies of Gozzi: I read _Il Corvo_,
and finding that it was an excellent subject, I wrote, in a few weeks,
my opera-text of the Raven. It will sound strange to the ears of
countrymen when I say that I, at that time, recommended Hartmann; that
I gave my word for it, in my letter to the theatrical directors, for
his being a man of talent, who would produce something good. He now
takes the first rank among the living Danish composers.

I worked up also Walter Scott's "Bride of Lammermoor" for another young
composer, Bredal. Both operas appeared on the stage; but I was
subjected to the most merciless criticism, as one who had stultified
the labors of foreign poets. What people had discovered to be good in
me before seemed now to be forgotten, and all talent was denied to me.
The composer Weyse, my earliest benefactor, whom I have already
mentioned, was, on the contrary, satisfied in the highest degree with
my treatment of these subjects. He told me that he had wished for a
long time to compose an opera from Walter Scott's "Kenilworth." He now
requested me to commence the joint work, and write the text. I had no
idea of the summary justice which would be dealt to me. I needed money
to live, and, what still more determined me to it, I felt flattered to
have to work with Weyse our most celebrated composer. It delighted me
that he, who had first spoken in my favor at Siboni's house, now, as
artist, sought a noble connection with me. I had scarcely half finished
the text, when I was already blamed for having made use of a well-known
romance. I wished to give it up; but Weyse consoled me, and encouraged
me to proceed. Afterwards, before he had finished the music, when I was
about to travel abroad, I committed my fate, as regarded the text,
entirely to his hands. He wrote whole verses of it, and the altered
conclusion is wholly his own. It was a peculiarity of that singular man
that he liked no book which ended sorrowfully. For that reason, Amy
must marry Leicester, and Elizabeth say, "Proud England, I am thine." I
opposed this at the beginning; but afterwards I yielded, and the piece
was really half-created by Weyse. It was brought on the stage, but was
not printed, with the exception of the songs. To this followed
anonymous attacks: the city post brought me letters in which the
unknown writers scoffed at and derided me. That same year I published a
new collection of poetry, "The Twelve Months of the Year;" and this
book, though it was afterwards pronounced to contain the greater part
of my best lyrical poems, was then condemned as bad.

At that time "The Monthly Review of Literature," though it is now gone
to its grave, was in its full bloom. At its first appearance, it
numbered among its co-workers some of the most distinguished names. Its
want, however, was men who were qualified to speak ably on aesthetic
works. Unfortunately, everybody fancies himself able to give an opinion
upon these; but people may write excellently on surgery or pedagogical
science, and may have a name in those things, and yet be dolts in
poetry: of this proofs may be seen. By degrees it became more and more
difficult for the critical bench to find a judge for poetical works.

Book of the day: