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The True Story of My Life by Hans Christian Andersen

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The one, however, who, through his extraordinary zeal for writing and
speaking, was ready at hand, was the historian and states-councillor
Molbeck, who played, in our time, so great a part in the history of
Danish criticism, that I must speak of him rather more fully. He is an
industrious collector, writes extremely correct Danish, and his Danish
dictionary, let him be reproached with whatever want he may, is a most
highly useful work; but, as a judge of aesthetic works, he is one-
sided, and even fanatically devoted to party spirit. He belongs,
unfortunately, to the men of science, who are only one sixty-fourth of
a poet, and who are the most incompetent judges of aesthetics. He has,
for example, by his critiques on Ingemann's romances, shown how far he
is below the poetry which he censures. He has himself published a
volume of poems, which belong to the common run of books, "A Ramble
through Denmark," written in the _fade_, flowery style of those
times, and "A Journey through Germany, France, and Italy," which seems
to be made up out of books, not out of life. He sate in his study, or
in the Royal Library, where he has a post, when suddenly he became
director of the theatre and censor of the pieces sent in. He was
sickly, one-sided in judgment, and irritable: people may imagine the
result. He spoke of my first poems very favorably; but my star soon
sank for another, who was in the ascendant, a young lyrical poet,
Paludan M ller; and, as he no longer loved, he hated me. That is the
short history; indeed, in the selfsame Monthly Review the very poems
which had formerly been praised were now condemned by the same judge,
when they appeared in a new increased edition. There is a Danish
proverb, "When the carriage drags, everybody pushes behind;" and I
proved the truth of it now.

It happened that a new star in Danish literature ascended at this time.
Heinrich Hertz published his "Letters from the Dead" anonymously: it
was a mode of driving all the unclean things out of the temple. The
deceased Baggesen sent polemical letters from Paradise, which resembled
in the highest degree the style of that author. They contained a sort
of apotheosis of Heiberg, and in part attacks upon Oehlenschl ger and
Hauch. The old story about my orthographical errors was again revived;
my name and my school-days in Slagelse were brought into connection
with St. Anders.

I was ridiculed, or if people will, I was chastised. Hertz's book went
through all Denmark; people spoke of nothing but him. It made it still
more piquant that the author of the work could not be discovered.
People were enraptured, and justly. Heiberg, in his "Flying Post,"
defended a few aesthetical insignificants, but not me. I felt the wound
of the sharp knife deeply. My enemies now regarded me as entirely shut
out from the world of spirits. I however in a short time published a
little book, "Vignettes to the Danish Poets," in which I characterized
the dead and the living authors in a few lines each, but only spoke of
that which was good in them. The book excited attention; it was
regarded as one of the best of my works; it was imitated, but the
critics did not meddle with it. It was evident, on this occasion, as
had already been the case, that the critics never laid hands on those
of my works which were the most successful.

My affairs were now in their worst condition; and precisely in that
same year in which a stipend for travelling had been conferred upon
Hertz, I also had presented a petition for the same purpose. The
universal opinion was that I had reached the point of culmination, and
if I was to succeed in travelling it must be at this present time. I
felt, what since then has become an acknowledged fact, that travelling
would be the best school for me. In the mean time I was told that to
bring it under consideration I must endeavor to obtain from the most
distinguished poets and men of science a kind of recommendation;
because this very year there were so many distinguished young men who
were soliciting a stipend, that it would be difficult among these to
put in an available claim. I therefore obtained recommendations for
myself; and I am, so far as I know, the only Danish poet who was
obliged to produce recommendations to prove that he was a poet.

And here also it is remarkable, that the men who recommended me have
each one made prominent some very different qualification which gave me
a claim: for instance, Oehlenschl ger, my lyrical power, and the
earnestness that was in me; Ingemann, my skill in depicting popular
life; Heiberg declared that, since the days of Wessel, no Danish poet
had possessed so much humor as myself; Oersted remarked, every one,
they who were against me as well as those who were for me, agreed on
one subject, and this was that I was a _true_ poet. Thiele
expressed himself warmly and enthusiastically about the power which he
had seen in me, combating against the oppression and the misery of
life. I received a stipend for travelling; Hertz a larger and I a
smaller one: and that also was quite in the order of things.

"Now be happy," said my friends, "make yourself aware of your unbounded
good fortune! Enjoy the present moment, as it will probably be the only
time in which you will get abroad. You shall hear what people say about
you while you are travelling, and how we shall defend you; sometimes,
however, we shall not be able to do that."

It was painful to me to hear such things said; I felt a compulsion of
soul to be away, that I might, if possible, breathe freely; but sorrow
is firmly seated on the horse of the rider. More than one sorrow
oppressed my heart, and although I opened the chambers of my heart to
the world, one or two of them I keep locked, nevertheless. On setting
out on my journey, my prayer to God was that I might die far away from
Denmark, or return strengthened for activity, and in a condition to
produce works which should win for me and my beloved ones joy and

Precisely at the moment of setting out on my journey, the form of my
beloved arose in my heart. Among the few whom I have already named,
there are two who exercised a great influence upon my life and my
poetry, and these I must more particularly mention. A beloved mother,
an unusually liberal-minded and well educated lady, Madame L ss c, had
introduced me into her agreeable circle of friends; she often felt the
deepest sympathy with me in my troubles; she always turned my attention
to the beautiful in nature and the poetical in the details of life, and
as almost everyone regarded me as a poet, she elevated my mind; yes,
and if there be tenderness and purity in anything which I have written,
they are among those things for which I have especially to be thankful
to her. Another character of great importance to me was Collin's son
Edward. Brought up under fortunate circumstances of life, he was
possessed of that courage and determination which I wanted. I felt that
he sincerely loved me, and I full of affection, threw myself upon him
with my whole soul; he passed on calmly and practically through the
business of life. I often mistook him at the very moment when he felt
for me most deeply, and when he would gladly have infused into me a
portion of his own character,--to me who was as a reed shaken by the
wind. In the practical part of life, he, the younger, stood actively by
my side, from the assistance which he gave in my Latin exercises, to
the arranging the business of bringing out editions of my works. He has
always remained the same; and were I to enumerate my friends, he would
be placed by me as the first on the list. When the traveller leaves the
mountains behind him, then for the first time he sees them in their
true form: so is it also with friends.

I arrived at Paris by way of Cassel and the Rhine. I retained a vivid
impression of all that I saw. The idea for a poem fixed itself firmer
and firmer in my mind; and I hoped, as it became more clearly worked
out, to propitiate by it my enemies. There is an old Danish folks-song
of Agnete and the Merman, which bore an affinity to my own state of
mind, and to the treatment of which I felt an inward impulse. The song
tells that Agnete wandered solitarily along the shore, when a merman
rose up from the waves and decoyed her by his speeches. She followed
him to the bottom of the sea, remained there seven years, and bore him
seven children. One day, as she sat by the cradle, she heard the church
bells sounding down to her in the depths of the sea, and a longing
seized her heart to go to church. By her prayers and tears she induced
the merman to conduct her to the upper world again, promising soon to
return. He prayed her not to forget his children, more especially the
little one in the cradle; stopped up her ears and her mouth, and then
led her upwards to the sea-shore. When, however, she entered the
church, all the holy images, as soon as they saw her, a daughter of sin
and from the depths of the sea, turned themselves round to the walls.
She was affrighted, and would not return, although the little ones in
her home below were weeping.

I treated this subject freely, in a lyrical and dramatic manner. I will
venture to say that the whole grew out of my heart; all the
recollections of our beechwoods and the open sea were blended in it.

In the midst of the excitement of Paris I lived in the spirit of the
Danish folks-songs. The most heartfelt gratitude to God filled my soul,
because I felt that all which I had, I had received through his mercy;
yet at the same time I took a lively interest in all that surrounded
me. I was present at one of the July festivals, in their first
freshness; it was in the year 1833. I saw the unveiling of Napoleon's
pillar. I gazed on the world-experienced King Louis Philippe, who is
evidently defended by Providence. I saw the Duke of Orleans, full of
health and the enjoyment of life, dancing at the gay people's ball, in
the gay Maison de Ville. Accident led in Paris to my first meeting with
Heine, the poet, who at that time occupied the throne in my poetical
world. When I told him how happy this meeting and his kind words made
me, he said that this could not very well be the case, else I should
have sought him out. I replied, that I had not done so precisely
because I estimated him so highly. I should have feared that he might
have thought it ridiculous in me, an unknown Danish poet, to seek him
out; "and," added I, "your sarcastic smile would deeply have wounded
me." In reply, he said something friendly.

Several years afterwards, when we again met in Paris, he gave me a
cordial reception, and I had a view into the brightly poetical portion
of his soul.

Paul D port met me with equal kindness. Victor Hugo also received me.

During my journey to Paris, and the whole month that I spent there, I
heard not a single word from home. Could my friends perhaps have
nothing agreeable to tell me? At length, however, a letter arrived; a
large letter, which cost a large sum in postage. My heart beat with joy
and yearning impatience; it was, indeed, my first letter. I opened it,
but I discovered not a single written word, nothing but a Copenhagen
newspaper, containing a lampoon upon me, and that was sent to me all
that distance with postage unpaid, probably by the anonymous writer
himself. This abominable malice wounded me deeply. I have never
discovered who the author was, perhaps he was one of those who
afterwards called me friend, and pressed my hand. Some men have base
thoughts: I also have mine.

It is a weakness of my country-people, that commonly, when abroad,
during their residence in large cities, they almost live exclusively in
company together; they must dine together, meet at the theatre, and see
all the lions of the place in company. Letters are read by each other;
news of home is received and talked over, and at last they hardly know
whether they are in a foreign land or their own. I had given way to the
same weakness in Paris; and in leaving it, therefore, determined for
one month to board myself in some quiet place in Switzerland, and live
only among the French, so as to be compelled to speak their language,
which was necessary to me in the highest degree.

In the little city of Lodi, in a valley of the Jura mountains, where
the snow fell in August, and the clouds floated below us, was I
received by the amiable family of a wealthy watchmaker. They would not
hear a word about payment. I lived among them and their friends as a
relation, and when we parted the children wept. We had become friends,
although I could not understand their patois; they shouted loudly into
my ear, because they fancied I must be deaf, as I could not understand
them. In the evenings, in that elevated region, there was a repose and
a stillness in nature, and the sound of the evening bells ascended to
us from the French frontier. At some distance from the city, stood a
solitary house, painted white and clean; on descending through two
cellars, the noise of a millwheel was heard, and the rushing waters of
a river which flowed on here, hidden from the world. I often visited
this place in my solitary rambles, and here I finished my poem of
"Agnete and the Merman," which I had begun in Paris.

I sent home this poem from Lodi; and never, with my earlier or my later
works, were my hopes so high as they were now. But it was received
coldly. People said I had done it in imitation of Oehlenschl ger, who
at one time sent home masterpieces. Within the last few years, I fancy,
this poem has been somewhat more read, and has met with its friends. It
was, however, a step forwards, and it decided, as it were,
unconsciously to me, my pure lyrical phasis. It has been also of late
critically adjudged in Denmark, that, notwithstanding that on its first
appearance it excited far less attention than some of my earlier and
less successful works, still that in this the poetry is of a deeper,
fuller, and more powerful character than anything which I had hitherto

This poem closes one portion of my life.


On the 5th of September, 1833, I crossed the Simplon on my way to
Italy. On the very day, on which, fourteen years before, I had arrived
poor and helpless in Copenhagen, did I set foot in this country of my
longing and of my poetical happiness. It happened in this case, as it
often does, by accident, without any arrangement on my part, as if I
had preordained lucky days in the year; yet good fortune has so
frequently been with me, that I perhaps only remind myself of its
visits on my own self-elected days.

All was sunshine--all was spring! The vine hung in long trails from
tree to tree; never since have I seen Italy so beautiful. I sailed on
Lago Maggiore; ascended the cathedral of Milan; passed several days in
Genoa, and made from thence a journey, rich in the beauties of nature,
along the shore to Carrara. I had seen statues in Paris, but my eyes
were closed to them; in Florence, before the Venus de Medici, it was
for the first time as if scales fell from my eyes; a new world of art
disclosed itself before me; that was the first fruit of my journey.
Here it was that I first learned to understand the beauty of form--the
spirit which reveals itself in form. The life of the people--nature--
all was new to me; and yet as strangely familiar as if I were come to a
home where I had lived in my childhood. With a peculiar rapidity did I
seize upon everything, and entered into its life, whilst a deep
northern melancholy--it was not home-sickness, but a heavy, unhappy
feeling--filled my breast. I received the news in Rome, of how little
the poem of Agnete, which I had sent home, was thought of there; the
next letter in Rome brought me the news that my mother was dead. I was
now quite alone in the world.

It was at this time, and in Rome, that my first meeting with Hertz took
place. In a letter which I had received from Collin, he had said that
it would give him pleasure to hear that Hertz and I had become friends;
but even without this wish it would have happened, for Hertz kindly
offered me his hand, and expressed sympathy with my sorrow. He had, of
all those with whom I was at that time acquainted, the most variously
cultivated mind. We had often disputations together, even about the
attacks which had been made upon me at home as a poet. He, who had
himself given me a wound, said the following words, which deeply
impressed themselves on my memory: "Your misfortune is, that you have
been obliged to print everything; the public has been able to follow
you step by step. I believe that even, a Goethe himself must have
suffered the same fate, had he been in your situation." And then he
praised my talent for seizing upon the characteristics of nature, and
giving, by a few intuitive sketches, pictures of familiar life. My
intercourse with him was very instructive to me, and I felt that I had
one merciful judge more. I travelled in company with him to Naples,
where we dwelt together in one house.

In Rome I also became first acquainted with Thorwaldsen. Many years
before, when I had not long been in Copenhagen, and was walking through
the streets as a poor boy, Thorwaldsen was there too: that was on his
first return home. We met one another in the street. I knew that he was
a distinguished man in art; I looked at him, I bowed; he went on, and
then, suddenly turning round, came back to me, and said, "Where have I
seen you before? I think we know one another." I replied, "No, we do
not know one another at all." I now related this story to him in Rome;
he smiled, pressed my hand, and said, "Yet we felt at that time that we
should become good friends." I read Agnete to him; and that which
delighted me in his judgment upon it was the assertion, "It is just,"
said he, "as if I were walking at home in the woods, and heard the
Danish lakes;" and then he kissed me.

One day, when he saw how distressed I was, and I related to him about
the pasquinade which I had received from home in Paris, he gnashed his
teeth violently, and said, in momentary anger, "Yes, yes, I know the
people; it would not have gone any better with me if I had remained
there; I should then, perhaps, not even have obtained permission to set
up a model. Thank God that I did not need them, for then they know how
to torment and to annoy." He desired me to keep up a good heart, and
then things could not fail of going well; and with that he told me of
some dark passages in his own life, where he in like manner had been
mortified and unjustly condemned.

After the Carnival, I left Rome for Naples; saw at Capri the blue
Grotto, which was at that time first discovered; visited the temple at
Paestum, and returned in the Easter week to Rome, from whence I went
through Florence and Venice to Vienna and Munich; but I had at that
time neither mind nor heart for Germany; and when I thought on Denmark,
I felt fear and distress of mind about the bad reception which I
expected to find there. Italy, with its scenery and its people's life,
occupied my soul, and towards this land I felt a yearning. My earlier
life, and what I had now seen, blended themselves together into an
image--into poetry, which I was compelled to write down, although I was
convinced that it would occasion me more trouble than joy, if my
necessities at home should oblige me to print it. I had written already
in Rome the first chapter. It was my novel of "The Improvisatore."

At one of my first visits to the theatre at Odense, as a little boy,
where, as I have already mentioned, the representations were given in
the German language, I saw the Donauweibchen, and the public applauded
the actress of the principal part. Homage was paid to her, and she was
honored; and I vividly remember thinking how happy she must be.

Many years afterwards, when, as a student, I visited Odense, I saw, in
one of the chambers of the hospital where the poor widows lived and
where one bed stood by another, a female portrait hanging over one bed
in a gilt frame. It was Lessing's Emilia Galotti, and represented her
as pulling the rose to pieces; but the picture was a portrait. It
appeared singular in contrast with the poverty by which it was

"Whom does it represent?" asked I.

"Oh!" said one of the old women, "it is the face of the German lady,
the poor lady who once was an actress!" And then I saw a little
delicate woman, whose face was covered with wrinkles, and in an old
silk gown that once had been black. That was the once celebrated
Singer, who, as the Donauweibchen, had been applauded by every one.
This circumstance made an indelible impression upon me, and often
occurred to my mind.

In Naples I heard Malibran for the first time. Her singing and acting
surpassed anything which I had hitherto either heard or seen; and yet I
thought the while of the miserably poor singer in the hospital of
Odense: the two figures blended into the Annunciata of the novel. Italy
was the back ground for that which had been experienced and that which
was imagined. In August of 1834 I returned to Denmark. I wrote the
first part of the book at Ingemann's, in Sor÷, in a little chamber in
the roof, among fragrant lime-trees. I finished it in Copenhagen.

At this time my best friends, even, had almost given me up as a poet;
they said that they had erred with regard to my talents. It was with
difficulty that I found a publisher for the book. I received a
miserable sum of money for it, and the "Improvisatore" made its
appearance; was read, sold out, and again published. The critics were
silent; the newspapers said nothing; but I heard all around me of the
interest which was felt for the work, and the delight that it
occasioned. At length the poet Carl Bagger, who was at that time the
editor of a newspaper, wrote the first critique upon it, and began
ironically, with the customary tirade against me--"that it was all over
with this author, who had already passed his heyday;"--in short, he
went the whole length of the tobacco and tea criticism, in order
suddenly to dash out, and to express his extremely warm enthusiasm for
me; and my book. People now laughed at me, but I wept. This was my mood
of mind. I wept freely, and felt gratitude to God and man.

"To the Conference Councillor Collin and to his noble wife, in whom I
found parents, whose children were brethren and sisters to me, whose
house was my home, do I here present the best of which I am
possessed."--So ran the dedication. Many who formerly had been my
enemy, now changed their opinion; and among these one became my friend,
who, I hope, will remain so through the whole of my life. That was
Hauch the poet, one of the noblest characters with whom I am
acquainted. He had returned home from Italy after a residence of
several years abroad, just at the time when Heiberg's vaudevilles were
intoxicating the inhabitants of Copenhagen, and when my "Journey on
Foot" was making me a little known. He commenced a controversy with
Heiberg, and somewhat scoffed at me. Nobody called his attention to my
better lyrical writings; I was described to him as a spoiled, petulant
child of fortune. He now read my Improvisatore, and feeling that there
was something good in me, his noble character evinced itself by his
writing a cordial letter to me, in which he said, that he had done me
an injustice, and offered me now the hand of reconciliation. From that
time we became friends. He used his influence for me with the utmost
zeal, and has watched my onward career with heartfelt friendship. But
so little able have many people been to understand what is excellent in
him, or the noble connection of heart between us two, that not long
since, when he wrote a novel, and drew in it the caricature of a poet,
whose vanity ended in insanity, the people in Denmark discovered that
he had treated me with the greatest injustice, because he had described
in it my weakness. People must not believe that this was the assertion
of one single person, or a misapprehension of my character; no; and
Hauch felt himself compelled to write a treatise upon me as a poet,
that he might show what a different place he assigned to me.

But to return to the "Improvisatore." This book raised my sunken
fortunes; collected my friends again around me, nay, even obtained for
me new ones. For the first time I felt that I had obtained a due
acknowledgment. The book was translated into German by Kruse, with a
long title, _"Jugendleben und Tr ume eines italienischen
Dichter's."_ I objected to the title; but he declared that it was
necessary in order to attract attention to the book.

Bagger had, as already stated, been the first to pass judgment on the
work; after an interval of some time a second critique made its
appearance, more courteous, it is true, than I was accustomed to, but
still passing lightly over the best things in the book and dwelling on
its deficiencies, and on the number of incorrectly written Italian
words. And, as Nicolai's well-known book, "Italy as it really is," came
out just then, people universally said, "Now we shall be able to see
what it is about which Andersen has written, for from Nicolai a true
idea of Italy may be obtained for the first time."

It was from Germany that resounded the first decided acknowledgment of
the merits of my work, or rather perhaps its over estimation. I bow
myself in joyful gratitude, like a sick man toward the sunshine, when
my heart is grateful. I am not, as the Danish Monthly Review, in its
critique of the "Improvisatore," condescended to assert, an unthankful
man, who exhibits in his work a want of gratitude towards his
benefactors. I was indeed myself poor Antonio who sighed under the
burden which I had to bear,--_I,_ the poor lad who ate the bread
of charity. From Sweden also, later, resounded my praise, and the
Swedish newspapers contained articles in praise of this work, which
within the last two years has been equally warmly received in England,
where Mary Howitt, the poetess, has translated it into English; the
same good fortune also is said to have attended the book in Holland and
Russia. Everywhere abroad resounded the loudest acknowledgments of its

There exists in the public a power which is stronger than all the
critics and cliques. I felt that I stood at home on firmer ground, and
my spirit again had moments in which it raised its wings for flight. In
this alternation of feeling between gaiety and ill humor, I wrote my
next novel, "O. T.," which is regarded by many persons in Denmark as my
best work;--an estimation which I cannot myself award to it. It
contains characteristic features of town life. My first Tales appeared
before "O. T;" but this is not the place in which to speak of them. I
felt just at this time a strong mental impulse to write, and I believed
that I had found my true element in novel-writing. In the following
year, 1837, I published "Only a Fiddler," a book which on my part had
been deeply pondered over, and the details of which sprang fresh to the
paper. My design was to show that talent is not genius, and that if the
sunshine of good fortune be withheld, this must go to the ground,
though without losing its nobler, better nature. This book likewise had
its partisans; but still the critics would not vouchsafe to me any
encouragement; they forgot that with years the boy becomes a man, and
that people may acquire knowledge in other than the ordinary ways. They
could not separate themselves from their old preconceived opinions.
Whilst "O. T." was going through the press it was submitted sheet by
sheet to a professor of the university, who had himself offered to
undertake this work, and by two other able men also; notwithstanding
all this, the Reviews said, "We find the usual grammatical negligence,
which we always find in Andersen, in this work also." That which
contributed likewise to place this book in the shade was the
circumstance of Heiberg having at that time published his Every-day
Stories, which were written in excellent language, and with good taste
and truth. Their own merits, and the recommendation of their being
Heiberg's, who was the beaming star of literature, placed them in the
highest rank.

I had however advanced so far, that there no longer existed any doubt
as to my poetical ability, which people had wholly denied to me before
my journey to Italy. Still not a single Danish critic had spoken of the
characteristics which are peculiar to my novels. It was not until my
works appeared in Swedish that this was done, and then several Swedish
journals went profoundly into the subject and analyzed my works with
good and honorable intentions. The case was the same in Germany; and
from this country too my heart was strengthened to proceed. It was not
until last year that in Denmark, a man of influence, Hauch the poet,
spoke of the novels in his already mentioned treatise, and with a few
touches brought their characteristics prominently forward.

"The principal thing," says he, "in Andersen's best and most elaborate
works, in those which are distinguished for the richest fancy, the
deepest feeling, the most lively poetic spirit, is, of talent, or at
least of a noble nature, which will struggle its way out of narrow and
depressing circumstances. This is the case with his three novels, and
with this purpose in view, it is really an important state of existence
which he describes,--an inner world, which no one understands better
than he, who has himself, drained out of the bitter cup of suffering
and renunciation, painful and deep feelings which are closely related
to those of his own experience, and from which Memory, who, according
to the old significant myth, is the mother of the Muses, met him hand
in hand with them. That which he, in these his works, relates to the
world, deserves assuredly to be listened to with attention; because, at
the same time that it may be only the most secret inward life of the
individual, yet it is also the common lot of men of talent and genius,
at least when these are in needy circumstances, as is the case of those
who are here placed before our eyes. In so far as in his
'Improvisatore,' in 'O. T.,' and in 'Only a Fiddler,' he represents not
only himself, in his own separate individuality, but at the same time
the momentous combat which so many have to pass through, and which he
understands so well, because in it his own life has developed itself;
therefore in no instance can he be said to present to the reader what
belongs to the world of illusion, but only that which bears witness to
truth, and which, as is the case with all such testimony, has a
universal and enduring worth.

"And still more than this, Andersen is not only the defender of talent
and genius, but, at the same time, of every human heart which is
unkindly and unjustly treated. And whilst he himself has so painfully
suffered in that deep combat in which the Laocoon-snakes seize upon the
outstretched hand; whilst he himself has been compelled to drink from
that wormwood-steeped bowl which the cold-blooded and arrogant world so
constantly offers to those who are in depressed circumstances, he is
fully capable of giving to his delineations in this respect a truth and
an earnestness, nay, even a tragic and a pain-awakening pathos that
rarely fails of producing its effect on the sympathizing human heart.
Who can read that scene in his 'Only a Fiddler,' in which the 'high-
bred hound,' as the poet expresses it, 'turned away with disgust from
the broken victuals which the poor youth received as alms, without
recognizing, at the same time, that this is no game in which vanity
seeks for a triumph, but that it expresses much more--human nature
wounded to its inmost depths, which here speaks out its sufferings.'"

Thus is it spoken in Denmark of my works, after an interval of nine or
ten years; thus speaks the voice of a noble, venerated man. It is with
me and the critics as it is with wine,--the more years pass before it
is drunk the better is its flavor.

During the year in which "The Fiddler" came out, I visited for the
first time the neighboring country of Sweden. I went by the G÷ta canal
to Stockholm. At that time nobody understood what is now called
Scandinavian sympathies; there still existed a sort of mistrust
inherited from the old wars between the two neighbor nations. Little
was known of Swedish literature, and there were only very few Danes who
could easily read and understand the Swedish language;--people scarcely
knew Tegn r's Frithiof and Axel, excepting through translations. I had,
however, read a few other Swedish authors, and the deceased,
unfortunate Stagnelius pleased me more as a poet than Tegn r, who
represented poetry in Sweden. I, who hitherto had only travelled into
Germany and southern countries, where by this means, the departure from
Copenhagen was also the departure from my mother tongue, felt, in this
respect, almost at home in Sweden: the languages are so much akin, that
of two persons each might read in the language of his own country, and
yet the other understand him. It seemed to me, as a Dane, that Denmark
expanded itself; kinship with the people exhibited itself, in many
ways, more and more; and I felt, livingly, how near akin are Swedes,
Danes, and Norwegians.

I met with cordial, kind people,--and with these I easily made
acquaintance. I reckon this journey among the happiest I ever made. I
had no knowledge of the character of Swedish scenery, and therefore I
was in the highest degree astonished by the Trollh tta-voyage, and by
the extremely picturesque situation of Stockholm. It sounds to the
uninitiated half like a fairy-tale, when one says that the steam-boat
goes up across the lakes over the mountains, from whence may be seen
the outstretched pine and beechwoods below. Immense sluices heave up
and lower the vessel again, whilst the travellers ramble through the
woods. None of the cascades of Switzerland, none in Italy, not even
that of Terni, have in them anything so imposing as that of Trollh tta.
Such is the impression, at all events, which it made on me.

On this journey, and at this last-mentioned place, commenced a very
interesting acquaintance, and one which has not been without its
influence on me,--an acquaintance with the Swedish authoress, Fredrika
Bremer. I had just been speaking with the captain of the steam-boat and
some of the passengers about the Swedish authors living in Stockholm,
and I mentioned my desire to see and converse with Miss Bremer.

"You will not meet with her," said the Captain, "as she is at this
moment on a visit in Norway."

"She will be coming back while I am there," said I in joke; "I always
am lucky in my journeys, and that which I most wish for is always

"Hardly this time, however," said the captain.

A few hours after this he came up to me laughing, with the list of the
newly arrived passengers in his hand. "Lucky fellow," said he aloud,
"you take good fortune with you; Miss Bremer is here, and sails with us
to Stockholm."

I received it as a joke; he showed me the list, but still I was
uncertain. Among the new arrivals, I could see no one who resembled an
authoress. Evening came on, and about midnight we were on the great
Wener lake. At sunrise I wished to have a view of this extensive lake,
the shores of which could scarcely be seen; and for this purpose I left
the cabin. At the very moment that I did so, another passenger was also
doing the same, a lady neither young nor old, wrapped in a shawl and
cloak. I thought to myself, if Miss Bremer is on board, this must be
she, and fell into discourse with her; she replied politely, but still
distantly, nor would she directly answer my question, whether she was
the authoress of the celebrated novels. She asked after my name; was
acquainted with it, but confessed that she had read none of my works.
She then inquired whether I had not some of them with me, and I lent
her a copy of the "Improvisatore," which I had destined for Beskow.
She vanished immediately with the volumes, and was not again visible
all morning.

When I again saw her, her countenance was beaming, and she was full of
cordiality; she pressed my hand, and said that she had read the greater
part of the first volume, and that she now knew me.

The vessel flew with us across the mountains, through quiet inland
lakes and forests, till it arrived at the Baltic Sea, where islands lie
scattered, as in the Archipelago, and where the most remarkable
transition takes place from naked cliffs to grassy islands, and to
those on which stand trees and houses. Eddies and breakers make it here
necessary to take on board a skilful pilot; and there are indeed some
places where every passenger must sit quietly on his seat, whilst the
eye of the pilot is riveted upon one point. On shipboard one feels the
mighty power of nature, which at one moment seizes hold of the vessel
and the next lets it go again.

Miss Bremer related many legends and many histories, which were
connected with this or that island, or those farm-premises up aloft on
the mainland.

In Stockholm, the acquaintance with her increased, and year after year
the letters which have passed between us have strengthened it. She is a
noble woman; the great truths of religion, and the poetry which lies in
the quiet circumstances of life, have penetrated her being.

It was not until after my visit to Stockholm that her Swedish
translation of my novel came out; my lyrical poems only, and my
"Journey on Foot," were known to a few authors; these received me with
the utmost kindness, and the lately deceased Dahlgr n, well known by
his humorous poems, wrote a song in my honor--in short, I met with
hospitality, and countenances beaming with Sunday gladness. Sweden and
its inhabitants became dear to me. The city itself, by its situation
and its whole picturesque appearance, seemed to me to emulate Naples.
Of course, this last has the advantage of fine atmosphere, and the
sunshine of the south; but the view of Stockholm is just as imposing;
it has also some resemblance to Constantinople, as seen from Pera, only
that the minarets are wanting. There prevails a great variety of
coloring in the capital of Sweden; white painted buildings; frame-work
houses, with the wood-work painted red; barracks of turf, with
flowering plants; fir tree and birches look out from among the houses,
and the churches with their balls and towers. The streets in S÷dermalm
ascend by flights of wooden steps up from the M lar lake, which is all
active with smoking steam-vessels, and with boats rowed by women in
gay-colored dresses.

I had brought with me a letter of introduction from Oersted, to the
celebrated Berzelius, who gave me a good reception in the old city of
Upsala. From this place I returned to Stockholm. City, country, and
people, were all dear to me; it seemed to me, as I said before, that
the boundaries of my native land had stretched themselves out, and I
now first felt the kindredship of the three peoples, and in this
feeling I wrote a Scandinavian song, a hymn of praise for all the three
nations, for that which was peculiar and best in each one of them.

"One can see that the Swedes made a deal of him," was the first remark
which I heard at home on this song.

Years pass on; the neighbors understand each other better;
Oehlenschl ger. Fredrika Bremer, and Tegn r, caused them mutually to
read each other's authors, and the foolish remains of the old enmity,
which had no other foundation than that they did not know each other,
vanished. There now prevails a beautiful, cordial relationship between
Sweden and Denmark. A Scandinavian club has been established in
Stockholm; and with this my song came to honor; and it was then said,
"it will outlive everything that Andersen has written:" which was as
unjust as when they said that it was only the product of flattered
vanity. This song is now sung in Sweden as well as in Denmark.

On my return home I began to study history industriously, and made
myself still further acquainted with the literature of foreign
countries. Yet still the volume which afforded me the greatest pleasure
was that of nature; and in a summer residence among the country-seats
of Funen, and more especially at Lykkesholm, with its highly romantic
site in the midst of woods, and at the noble seat of Glorup, from whose
possessor I met with the most friendly reception, did I acquire more
true wisdom, assuredly, in my solitary rambles, than I ever could have
gained from the schools.

The house of the Conference Councillor Collin in Copenhagen was at that
time, as it has been since, a second father's house to me, and there I
had parents, and brothers and sisters. The best circles of social life
were open to me, and the student life interested me: here I mixed in
the pleasures of youth. The student life of Copenhagen is, besides
this, different from that of the German cities, and was at this time
peculiar and full of life. For me this was most perceptible in the
students' clubs, where students and professors were accustomed to meet
each other: there was there no boundary drawn between the youthful and
elder men of letters. In this club were to be found the journals and
books of various countries; once a week an author would read his last
work; a concert or some peculiar burlesque entertainment would take
place. It was here that what may be called the first Danish
people'scomedies took their origin,--comedies in which the events of
the day were worked up always in an innocent, but witty and amusing
manner. Sometimes dramatic representations were given in the presence
of ladies for the furtherance of some noble purpose, as lately to
assist Thorwaldsen's Museum, to raise funds for the execution of
Bissen's statue in marble, and for similar ends. The professors and
students were the actors. I also appeared several times as an actor,
and convinced myself that my terror at appearing on the stage was
greater than the talent which I perhaps possessed. Besides this, I
wrote and arranged several pieces, and thus gave my assistance. Several
scenes from this time, the scenes in the students' club, I have worked
up in my romance of "O. T." The humor and love of life observable in
various passages of this book, and in the little dramatic pieces
written about this time, are owing to the influence of the family of
Collin, where much good was done me in that respect, so that my morbid
turn of mind was unable to gain the mastery of me. Collin's eldest
married daughter, especially, exercised great influence over me, by her
merry humor and wit. When the mind is yielding and elastic, like the
expanse of ocean, it readily, like the ocean, mirrors its environments.

My writings, in my own country, were now classed among those which were
always bought and read; therefore for each fresh work I received a
higher payment. Yet, truly, when you consider what a circumscribed
world the Danish reading world is, you will see that this payment could
not be the most liberal. Yet I had to live. Collin, who is one of the
men who do more than they promise, was my help, my consolation, my

At this time the late Count Conrad von Rantzau-Breitenburg, a native of
Holstein, was Prime Minister in Denmark. He was of a noble, amiable
nature, a highly educated man, and possessed of a truly chivalrous
disposition. He carefully observed the movements in German and Danish
literature. In his youth he had travelled much, and spent a long time
in Spain and Italy, He read my "Improvisatore" in the original; his
imagination was powerfully seized by it, and he spoke both at court and
in his own private circles of my book in the warmest manner. He did not
stop here; he sought me out, and became my benefactor and friend. One
forenoon, whilst I was sitting solitarily in my little chamber, this
friendly man stood before me for the first time. He belonged to that
class of men who immediately inspire you with confidence; he besought
me to visit him, and frankly asked me whether there were no means by
which he could be of use to me. I hinted how oppressive it was to be
_forced_ to write in order to live, always to be forced to think
of the morrow, and not move free from care, to be able to develop your
mind and thoughts. He pressed my hand in a friendly manner, and
promised to be an efficient friend. Collin and Oersted secretly
associated themselves with him, and became my intercessors.

Already for many years there had existed, under Frederick VI., an
institution which does the highest honor to the Danish government,
namely, that beside the considerable sum expended yearly, for the
travelling expenses of young literary men and artists, a small pension
shall be awarded to such of them as enjoy no office emoluments. All our
most important poets have had a share of this assistance,--
Oehlenschl ger, Ingemann, Heiberg, C. Winther, and others. Hertz had
just then received such a pension, and his future life made thus the
more secure. It was my hope and my wish that the same good fortune
might be mine--and it was. Frederick VI. granted me two hundred rix
dollars banco yearly. I was filled with gratitude and joy. I was
nolonger _forced_ to write in order to live; I had a sure support
in the possible event of sickness. I was less dependent upon the people
about me. A new chapter of my life began.


From this day forward, it was as if a more constant sunshine had
entered my heart. I felt within myself more repose, more certainty; it
was clear to me, as I glanced back over my earlier life, that a loving
Providence watched over me, that all was directed for me by a higher
Power; and the firmer becomes such a conviction, the more secure does a
man feel himself. My childhood lay behind me, my youthful life began
properly from this period; hitherto it had been only an arduous
swimming against the stream. The spring of my life commenced; but still
the spring had its dark days, its storms, before it advanced to settled
summer; it has these in order to develop what shall then ripen. That
which one of my dearest friends wrote to me on one of my later travels
abroad, may serve as an introduction to what I have here to relate. He
wrote in his own peculiar style:--"It is your vivid imagination which
creates the idea of your being despised in Denmark; it is utterly
untrue. You and Denmark agree admirably, and you would agree still
better, if there were in Denmark no theatre--_Hinc illae
lacrymae!_ This cursed theatre. Is this, then, Denmark? and are you,
then, nothing but a writer for the theatre?"

Herein lies a solid truth. The theatre has been the cave out of which
most of the evil storms have burst upon me. They are peculiar people,
these people of the theatre,--as different, in fact, from others, as
Bedouins from Germans; from the first pantomimist to the first lover,
everyone places himself systematically in one scale, and puts all the
world in the other. The Danish theatre is a good theatre, it may indeed
be placed on a level with the Burg theatre in Vienna; but the theatre
in Copenhagen plays too great a part in conversation, and possesses in
most circles too much importance. I am not sufficiently acquainted with
the stage and the actors in other great cities, and therefore cannot
compare them with our theatre; but ours has too little military
discipline, and this is absolutely necessary where many people have to
form a whole, even when that whole is an artistical one. The most
distinguished dramatic poets in Denmark--that is to say, in Copenhagen,
for there only is a theatre--have their troubles. Those actors and
actresses who, through talent or the popular favor, take the first
rank, very often place themselves above both the managers and authors.
These must pay court to them, or they may ruin a part, or what is still
worse, may spread abroad an unfavorable opinion of the piece previous
to its being acted; and thus you have a coffee-house criticism before
any one ought properly to know anything of the work. It is moreover
characteristic of the people of Copenhagen, that when a new piece is
announced, they do not say, "I am glad of it," but, "It will probably
be good for nothing; it will be hissed off the stage." That hissing-off
plays a great part, and is an amusement which fills the house; but it
is not the bad actor who is hissed, no, the author and the composer
only are the criminals; for them the scaffold is erected. Five minutes
is the usual time, and the whistles resound, and the lovely women smile
and felicitate themselves, like the Spanish ladies at their bloody
bullfights. All our most eminent dramatic writers have been whistled
down,--as Oehlenschl ger, Heiberg, Oversko, and others; to say nothing
of foreign classics, as Moli re. In the mean time the theatre is the
most profitable sphere of labor for the Danish writer, whose public
does not extend far beyond the frontiers. This had induced me to write
the opera-text already spoken of, on account of which I was so severely
criticised; and an internal impulse drove me afterwards to add some
other works. Collin was no longer manager of the theatre, Councillor of
Justice Molbeck had taken his place; and the tyranny which now
commenced degenerated into the comic. I fancy that in course of time
the manuscript volumes of the censorship, which are preserved in the
theatre, and in which Molbeck has certainly recorded his judgments on
received and rejected pieces, will present some remarkable
characteristics. Over all that I wrote the staff was broken! One way
was open to me by which to bring my pieces on the stage; and that was
to give them to those actors who in summer gave representations at
their own cost. In the summer of 1839 I wrote the vaudeville of "The
Invisible One on Sprog÷," to scenery which had been painted for another
piece which fell through; and the unrestrained merriment of the piece
gave it such favor with the public, that I obtained its acceptance by
the manager; and that light sketch still maintains itself on the
boards, and has survived such a number of representations as I had
never anticipated.

This approbation, however, procured me no further advantage, for each
of my succeeding dramatic works received only rejection, and occasioned
me only mortification. Nevertheless, seized by the idea and the
circumstances of the little French narrative, "_Les paves_," I
determined to dramatise it; and as I had often heard that I did not
possess the assiduity sufficient to work my mat riel well, I resolved
to labor this drama--"The Mulatto"--from the beginning to the end, in
the most diligent manner, and to compose it in alternately rhyming
verse, as was then the fashion. It was a foreign subject of which I
availed myself; but if verses are music, I at least endeavored to adapt
my music to the text, and to let the poetry of another diffuse itself
through my spiritual blood; so that people should not be heard to say,
as they had done before, regarding the romance of Walter Scott, that
the composition was cut down and fitted to the stage.

The piece was ready, and declared by able men, old friends, and actors
who were to appear in it, to be excellent; a rich dramatic capacity lay
in the mat riel, and my lyrical composition clothed this with so fresh
a green, that people appeared satisfied. The piece was sent in, and was
rejected by Molbeck. It was sufficiently known that what he cherished
for the boards, withered there the first evening; but what he cast away
as weeds were flowers for the garden--a real consolation for me. The
assistant-manager, Privy Counsellor of State, Adler, a man of taste and
liberality, became the patron of my work; and since a very favorable
opinion of it already prevailed with the public, after I had read it to
many persons, it was resolved on for representation. I had the honor to
read it before my present King and Queen, who received me in a very
kind and friendly manner, and from whom, since that time, I have
experienced many proofs of favor and cordiality. The day of
representation arrived; the bills were posted; I had not closed my eyes
through the whole night from excitement and expectation; the people
already stood in throngs before the theatre, to procure tickets, when
royal messengers galloped through the streets, solemn groups collected,
the minute guns pealed,--Frederick VI. had died this morning!

For two months more was the theatre closed, and was opened under
Christian VIII., with my drama--"The Mulatto;" which was received with
the most triumphant acclamation; but I could not at once feel the joy
of it, I felt only relieved from a state of excitement, and breathed
more freely.

This piece continued through a series of representations to receive the
same approbation; many placed this work far above all my former ones,
and considered that with it began my proper poetical career. It was
soon translated into the Swedish, and acted with applause at the royal
theatre in Stockholm. Travelling players introduced it into the smaller
towns in the neighboring country; a Danish company gave it in the
original language, in the Swedish city Malm÷, and a troop of students
from the university town of Lund, welcomed it with enthusiasm. I had
been for a week previous on a visit at some Swedish country houses,
where I was entertained with so much cordial kindness that the
recollection of it will never quit my bosom; and there, in a foreign
country, I received the first public testimony of honor, and which has
left upon me the deepest and most inextinguishable impression. I was
invited by some students of Lund to visit their ancient town. Here a
public dinner was given to me; speeches were made, toasts were
pronounced; and as I was in the evening in a family circle, I was
informed that the students meant to honor me with a serenade.

I felt myself actually overcome by this intelligence; my heart throbbed
feverishly as I descried the thronging troop, with their blue caps, and
arm-in-arm approaching the house. I experienced a feeling of
humiliation; a most lively consciousness of my deficiencies, so that I
seemed bowed to the very earth at the moment others were elevating me.
As they all uncovered their heads while I stepped forth, I had need of
all my thoughts to avoid bursting into tears. In the feeling that I was
unworthy of all this, I glanced round to see whether a smile did not
pass over the face of some one, but I could discern nothing of the
kind; and such a discovery would, at that moment, have inflicted on me
the deepest wound.

After an hurrah, a speech was delivered, of which I clearly recollect
the following words:--"When your native land, and the natives of Europe
offer you their homage, then may you never forget that the first public
honors were conferred on you by the students of Lund."

When the heart is warm, the strength of the expression is not weighed.
I felt it deeply, and replied, that from this moment I became aware
that I must assert a name in order to render myself worthy of these
tokens of honor. I pressed the hands of those nearest to me, and
returned them thanks so deep, so heartfelt,--certainly never was an
expression of thanks more sincere. When I returned to my chamber, I
went aside, in order to weep out this excitement, this overwhelming
sensation. "Think no more of it, be joyous with us," said some of my
lively Swedish friends; but a deep earnestness had entered my soul.
Often has the memory of this time come back to me; and no noble-minded
man, who reads these pages will discover a vanity in the fact, that I
have lingered so long over this moment of life, which scorched the
roots of pride rather than nourished them.

My drama was now to be brought on the stage at Malm÷; the students
wished to see it; but I hastened my departure, that I might not be in
the theatre at the time. With gratitude and joy fly my thoughts towards
the Swedish University city, but I myself have not been there again
since. In the Swedish newspapers the honors paid me were mentioned, and
it was added that the Swedes were not unaware that in my own country
there was a clique which persecuted me; but that this should not hinder
my neighbors from offering me the honors which they deemed my due.

It was when I had returned to Copenhagen that I first truly felt how
cordially I had been received by the Swedes; amongst some of my old and
tried friends I found the most genuine sympathy. I saw tears in their
eyes, tears of joy for the honors paid me; and especially, said they,
for the manner in which I had received them. There is but one manner
for me; at once, in the midst of joy, I fly with thanks to God.

There were certain persons who smiled at the enthusiasm; certain voices
raised themselves already against "The Mulatto;"--"the mat riel was
merely borrowed;" the French narrative was scrupulously studied. That
exaggerated praise which I had received, now made me sensitive to the
blame; I could bear it less easily than before, and saw more clearly,
that it did not spring out of an interest in the matter, but was only
uttered in order to mortify me. For the rest, my mind was fresh and
elastic; I conceived precisely at this time the idea of "The Picture-
Book without Pictures," and worked it out. This little book appears, to
judge by the reviews and the number of editions, to have obtained an
extraordinary popularity in Germany; it was also translated into
Swedish, and dedicated to myself; at home, it was here less esteemed;
people talked only of The Mulatto; and finally, only of the borrowed
mat riel of it. I determined, therefore to produce a new dramatic work,
in which both subject and development, in fact, everything should be of
my own conception. I had the idea, and now wrote the tragedy of The
Moorish Maiden, hoping through this to stop the mouths of all my
detractors, and to assert my place as a dramatic poet. I hoped, too,
through the income from this, together with the proceeds of The
Mulatto, to be able to make a fresh journey, not only to Italy, but to
Greece and Turkey. My first going abroad had more than all besides
operated towards my intellectual development; I was therefore full of
the passion for travel, and of the endeavor to acquire more knowledge
of nature and of human life.

My new piece did not please Heiberg, nor indeed my dramatic endeavors
at all; his wife--for whom the chief part appeared to me especially to
be written--refused, and that not in the most friendly manner, to play
it. Deeply wounded, I went forth. I lamented this to some individuals.
Whether this was repeated, or whether a complaint against the favorite
of the public is a crime, enough: from this hour Heiberg became my
opponent,--he whose intellectual rank I so highly estimated,--he with
whom I would so willingly have allied myself,--and he who so often--I
will venture to say it--I had approached with the whole sincerity of my
nature. I have constantly declared his wife to be so distinguished an
actress, and continue still so entirely of this opinion, that I would
not hesitate one moment to assert that she would have a European
reputation, were the Danish language as widely diffused as the German
or the French. In tragedy she is, by the spirit and the geniality with
which she comprehends and fills any part, a most interesting object;
and in comedy she stands unrivalled.

The wrong may be on my side or not,--no matter: a party was opposed to
me. I felt myself wounded, excited by many coincident annoyances there.
I felt uncomfortable in my native country, yes, almost ill. I therefore
left my piece to its fate, and, suffering and disconcerted, I hastened
forth. In this mood I wrote a prologue to The Moorish Maiden; which
betrayed my irritated mind far too palpably. If I would represent this
portion of my life more clearly and reflectively it would require me to
penetrate into the mysteries of the theatre, to analyze our aesthetic
cliques, and to drag into conspicuous notice many individuals, who do
not belong to publicity. Many persons in my place would, like me, have
fallen ill, or would have resented it vehemently: perhaps the latter
would have been the most sensible.

At my departure, many of my young friends amongst the students prepared
a banquet for me; and amongst the elder ones who were present to
receive me were Collin, Oehlenschl ger and Oersted. This was somewhat
of sunshine in the midst of my mortification; songs by Oehlenschl ger
and Hillerup were sung; and I found cordiality and friendship, as I
quitted my country in distress. This was in October of 1840.

For the second time I went to Italy and Rome, to Greece and
Constantinople--a journey which I have described after my own manner in
A Poet's Bazaar.

In Holstein I continued some days with Count Rantzau-Breitenburg, who
had before invited me, and whose ancestral castle I now for the first
time visited. Here I became acquainted with the rich scenery of
Holstein, heath and moorland, and then hastened by Nuremberg to Munich,
where I again met with Cornelius and Schelling, and was kindly received
by Kaulbach and Schelling. I cast a passing glance on the artistic life
in Munich, but for the most part pursued my own solitary course,
sometimes filled with the joy of life, but oftener despairing of my
powers. I possessed a peculiar talent, that of lingering on the gloomy
side of life, of extracting the bitter from it, of tasting it; and
understood well, when the whole was exhausted, how to torment myself.

In the winter season I crossed the Brenner, remained some days in
Florence, which I had before visited for a longer time, and about
Christmas reached Rome. Here again I saw the noble treasures of art,
met old friends, and once more passed a Carnival and Moccoli. But not
alone was I bodily ill; nature around me appeared likewise to sicken;
there was neither the tranquillity nor the freshness which attended my
first sojourn in Rome. The rocks quaked, the Tiber twice rose into the
streets, fever raged, and snatched numbers away. In a few days Prince
Borghese lost his wife and three sons. Rain and wind prevailed; in
short, it was dismal, and from home cold lotions only were sent me. My
letters told me that The Moorish Maiden had several times been acted
through, and had gone quietly off the stage; but, as was seen
beforehand, a small public only had been present, and therefore the
manager had laid the piece aside. Other Copenhagen letters to our
countrymen in Rome spoke with enthusiasm of a new work by Heiberg; a
satirical poem--A Soul after Death. It was but just out, they wrote;
all Copenhagen was full of it, and Andersen was famously handled in it.
The book was admirable, and I was made ridiculous in it. That was the
whole which I heard,--all that I knew. No one told me what really was
said of me; wherein lay the amusement and the ludicrous. It is doubly
painful to be ridiculed when we don't know wherefore we are so. The
information operated like molten lead dropped into a wound, and
agonized me cruelly. It was not till after my return to Denmark that I
read this book, and found that what was said of me in it, was really
nothing in itself which was worth laying to heart. It was a jest over
my celebrity "from Schonen to Hundsr ck", which did not please Heiberg;
he therefore sent my Mulatto and The Moorish Maiden to the infernal
regions, where--and that was the most witty conceit--the condemned were
doomed to witness the performance of both pieces in one evening; and
then they could go away and lay themselves down quietly. I found the
poetry, for the rest, so excellent, that I was half induced to write to
Heiberg, and to return him my thanks for it; but I slept upon this
fancy, and when I awoke and was more composed, I feared lest such
thanks should be misunderstood; and so I gave it up.

In Rome, as I have said, I did not see the book; I only heard the
arrows whizz and felt their wound, but I did not know what the poison
was which lay concealed in them. It seemed to me that Rome was no joy-
bringing city; when I was there before, I had also passed dark and
bitter days. I was ill, for the first time in my life, truly and bodily
ill, and I made haste to get away.

The Danish poet Holst was then in Rome; he had received this year a
travelling pension. Hoist had written an elegy on King Frederick VI.,
which went from mouth to mouth, and awoke an enthusiasm, like that of
Becker's contemporaneous Rhine song in Germany. He lived in the same
house with me in Rome, and showed me much sympathy: with him I made the
journey to Naples, where, notwithstanding it was March, the sun would
not properly shine, and the snow lay on the hills around. There was
fever in my blood; I suffered in body and in mind; and I soon lay so
severely affected by it, that certainly nothing but a speedy blood-
letting, to which my excellent Neapolitan landlord compelled me, saved
my life.

In a few days I grew sensibly better; and I now proceeded by a French
war steamer to Greece. Holst accompanied me on board. It was now as if
a new life had risen for me; and in truth this was the case; and if
this does not appear legibly in my later writings, yet it manifested
itself in my views of life, and in my whole inner development. As I saw
my European home lie far behind me, it seemed to me as if a stream of
forgetfulness flowed of all bitter and rankling remembrances: I felt
health in my blood, health in my thoughts, and freshly and courageously
I again raised my head.

Like another Switzerland, with a loftier and clearer heaven than the
Italian, Greece lay before me; nature made a deep and solemn impression
upon me; I felt the sentiment of standing on the great battle field of
the world, where nation had striven with nation, and had perished. No
single poem can embrace such greatness; every scorched-up bed of a
stream, every height, every stone, has mighty memoirs to relate. How
little appear the inequalities of daily life in such a place! A kingdom
of ideas streamed through me, and with such a fulness, that none of
them fixed themselves on paper. I had a desire to express the idea,
that the godlike was here on earth to maintain its contest, that it is
thrust backward, and yet advances again victoriously through all ages;
and I found in the legend of the Wandering Jew an occasion for it. For
twelve months this fiction had been emerging from the sea of my
thoughts; often did it wholly fill me; sometimes I fancied with the
alchemists that I had dug up the treasure; then again it sank suddenly,
and I despaired of ever being able to bring it to the light. I felt
what a mass of knowledge of various kinds I must first acquire. Often
at home, when I was compelled to hear reproofs on what they call a want
of study, I had sat deep into the night, and had studied history in
Hegel's Philosophy of History. I said nothing of this, or other
studies, or they would immediately have been spoken of, in the manner
of an instructive lady, who said, that people justly complained that I
did not possess learning enough. "You have really no mythology" said
she; "in all your poems there appears no single God. You must pursue
mythology; you must read Racine and Corneille." That she called
learning; and in like manner every one had something peculiar to
recommend. For my poem of Ahasuerus I had read much and noted much, but
yet not enough; in Greece, I thought, the whole will collect itself
into clearness. The poem is not yet ready, but I hope that it will
become so to my honor; for it happens with the children of the spirit,
as with the earthly ones,--they grow as they sleep.

In Athens I was heartily welcomed by Professor Ross, a native of
Holstein, and by my countrymen. I found hospitality and a friendly
feeling in the noble Prokesch-Osten; even the king and queen received
me most graciously. I celebrated my birthday in the Acropolis.

From Athens I sailed to Smyrna, and with me it was no childish pleasure
to be able to tread another quarter of the globe. I felt a devotion in
it, like that which I felt as a child when I entered the old church at
Odense. I thought on Christ, who bled on this earth; I thought on
Homer, whose song eternally resounds hence over the earth. The shores
of Asia preached to me their sermons, and were perhaps more impressive
than any sermon in any church can be.

In Constantinople I passed eleven interesting days; and according to my
good fortune in travel, the birthday of Mahomet itself fell exactly
during my stay there. I saw the grand illumination, which completely
transported me into the Thousand and One Nights.

Our Danish ambassador lived several miles from Constantinople, and I
had therefore no opportunity of seeing him; but I found a cordial
reception with the Austrian internuntius, Baron von St rmer. With him I
had a German home and friends. I contemplated making my return by the
Black Sea and up the Danube; but the country was disturbed; it was said
there had been several thousand Christians murdered. My companions of
the voyage, in the hotel where I resided, gave up this route of the
Danube, for which I had the greatest desire, and collectively
counselled me against it. But in this case I must return again by
Greece and Italy--it was a severe conflict.

I do not belong to the courageous; I feel fear, especially in little
dangers; but in great ones, and when an advantage is to be won, then I
have a will, and it has grown firmer with years. I may tremble, I may
fear; but I still do that which I consider the most proper to be done.
I am not ashamed to confess my weakness; I hold that when out of our
own true conviction we run counter to our inborn fear, we have done our
duty. I had a strong desire to become acquainted with the interior of
the country, and to traverse the Danube in its greatest expansion. I
battled with myself; my imagination pointed to me the most horrible
circumstances; it was an anxious night. In the morning I took counsel
with Baron St rmer; and as he was of opinion that I might undertake the
voyage, I determined upon it. From the moment that I had taken my
determination, I had the most immovable reliance on Providence, and
flung myself calmly on my fate. Nothing happened to me. The voyage was
prosperous, and after the quarantine on the Wallachian frontier, which
was painful enough to me, I arrived at Vienna on the twenty-first day
of the journey. The sight of its towers, and the meeting with numerous
Danes, awoke in me the thought of being speedily again at home. The
idea bowed down my heart, and sad recollections and mortifications rose
up within me once more.

In August, 1841, I was again in Copenhagen. There I wrote my
recollections of travel, under the title of A Poet's Bazaar, in several
chapters, according to the countries. In various places abroad I had
met with individuals, as at home, to whom I felt myself attached. A
poet is like the bird; he gives what he has, and he gives a song. I was
desirous to give every one of those dear ones such a song. It was a
fugitive idea, born, may I venture to say, in a grateful mood. Count
Rantzau-Breitenburg, who had resided in Italy, who loved the land, and
was become a friend and benefactor to me through my Improvisatore, must
love that part of the book which treated of his country. To Liszt and
Thalberg, who had both shown me the greatest friendship, I dedicated
the portion which contained the voyage up the Danube, because one was a
Hungarian and the other an Austrian. With these indications, the reader
will easily be able to trace out the thought which influenced me in the
choice of each dedication. But these appropriations were, in my native
country, regarded as a fresh proof of my vanity;--"I wished to figure
with great names, to name distinguished people as my friends."

The book has been translated into several languages, and the
dedications with it. I know not how they have been regarded abroad; if
I have been judged there as in Denmark, I hope that this explanation
will change the opinion concerning them. In Denmark my Bazaar procured
me the most handsome remuneration that I have as yet received,--a proof
that I was at length read there. No regular criticism appeared upon it,
if we except notices in some daily papers, and afterwards in the
poetical attempt of a young writer who, a year before, had testified to
me in writing his love, and his wish to do me honor; but who now, in
his first public appearance, launched his satirical poem against his
friend. I was personally attached to this young man, and am so still.
He assuredly thought more on the popularity he would gain by sailing in
the wake of Heiberg, than on the pain he would inflict on me. The
newspaper criticism in Copenhagen was infinitely stupid. It was set
down as exaggerated, that I could have seen the whole round blue globe
of the moon in Smyrna at the time of the new moon. That was called
fancy and extravagance, which there every one sees who can open his
eyes. The new moon has a dark blue and perfectly round disk.

The Danish critics have generally no open eye for nature: even the
highest and most cultivated monthly periodical of literature in Denmark
censured me once because, in a poem I had described a rainbow by
moonlight. That too was my fancy, which, said they, carried me too far.
When I said in the Bazaar, "if I were a painter, I would paint this
bridge; but, as I am no painter, but a poet, I must therefore speak,"
&c. Upon this the critic says, "He is so vain, that he tells us himself
that he is a poet." There is something so pitiful in such criticism,
that one cannot be wounded by it; but even when we are the most
peaceable of men, we feel a desire to flagellate such wet dogs, who
come into our rooms and lay themselves down in the best place in them.
There might be a whole Fool's Chronicle written of all the absurd and
shameless things which, from my first appearance before the public till
this moment, I have been compelled to hear.

In the meantime the Bazaar was much read, and made what is called a
hit. I received, connected with this book, much encouragement and many
recognitions from individuals of the highest distinction in the realms
of intellect in my native land.

The journey had strengthened me both in mind and body; I began to show
indications of a firmer purpose, a more certain judgment. I was now in
harmony with myself and with mankind around me.

Political life in Denmark had, at that time, arrived at a higher
development, producing both good and evil fruits. The eloquence which
had formerly accustomed itself to the Demosthenic mode, that of putting
little pebbles in the mouth, the little pebbles of every day life, now
exercised itself more freely on subjects of greater interest. I felt no
call thereto, and no necessity to mix myself up in such matters; for I
then believed that the politics of our times were a great misfortune
to many a poet. Madame, politics are like Venus; they whom she decoys
into her castle perish. It fares with the writings of these poets as
with the newspapers: they are seized upon, read, praised, and
forgotten. In our days every one wishes to rule; the subjective makes
its power of value; people forget that that which is thought of cannot
always be carried out, and that many things look very different when
contemplated from the top of the tree, to what they did when seen from
its roots. I will bow myself before him who is influenced by a noble
conviction, and who only desires that which is conducive to good, be he
prince or man of the people. Politics are no affair of mine. God has
imparted to me another mission: that I felt, and that I feel still. I
met in the so-called first families of the country a number of
friendly, kind-hearted men, who valued the good that was in me,
received me into their circles, and permitted me to participate in the
happiness of their opulent summer residences; so that, still feeling
independent, I could thoroughly give myself up to the pleasures of
nature, the solitude of woods, and country life. There for the first
time I lived wholly among the scenery of Denmark, and there I wrote the
greater number of my fairy tales. On the banks of quiet lakes, amid the
woods, on the green grassy pastures, where the game sprang past me and
the stork paced along on his red legs, I heard nothing of politics,
nothing of polemics; I heard no one practising himself in Hagel's
phraseology. Nature, which was around me and within me, preached to me
of my calling. I spent many happy days at the old house of Gisselfeld,
formerly a monastery, which stands in the deepest solitude of the
woods, surrounded with lakes and hills. The possessor of this fine
place, the old Countess Danneskjold, mother of the Duchess of
Augustenburg, was an agreeable and excellent lady, I was there not as a
poor child of the people, but as a cordially-received guest. The
beeches now overshadow her grave in the midst of that pleasant scenery
to which her heart was allied.

Close by Gisselfeld, but in a still finer situation, and of much
greater extent, lies the estate of Bregentoed, which belongs to Count
Moltke, Danish Minister of Finance. The hospitality which I met with in
this place, one of the richest and most beautiful of our country, and
the happy, social life which surrounded me here, have diffused a
sunshine over my life.

It may appear, perhaps, as if I desired to bring the names of great
people prominently forward, and make a parade of them; or as if I
wished in this way to offer a kind of thanks to my benefactors. They
need it not, and I should be obliged to mention many other names still
if this were my intention. I speak, however, only of these two places,
and of Nys÷, which belongs to Baron Stampe, and which has become
celebrated through Thorwaldsen. Here I lived much with the great
sculptor, and here I became acquainted with one of my dearest young
friends, the future possessor of the place.

Knowledge of life in these various circles has had great influence on
me: among princes, among the nobility, and among the poorest of the
people, I have met with specimens of noble humanity. We all of us
resemble each other in that which is good and best.

Winter life in Denmark has likewise its attractions and its rich
variety. I spent also some time in the country during this season, and
made myself acquainted with its peculiar characteristics. The greatest
part of my time, however, I passed in Copenhagen. I felt myself at home
with the married sons and daughters of Collin, where a number of
amiable children were growing up. Every year strengthened the bond of
friendship between myself and the nobly-gifted composer, Hartmann: art
and the freshness of nature prospered in his house. Collin was my
counsellor in practical life, and Oersted in my literary affairs. The
theatre was, if I may so say, my club. I visited it every evening, and
in this very year I had received a place in the so-called court stalls.
An author must, as a matter of course, work himself up to it. After the
first accepted piece he obtains admission to the pit; after the second
greater work, in the stalls, where the actors have their seats; and
after three larger works, or a succession of lesser pieces, the poet is
advanced to the best places. Here were to be found Thorwaldsen,
Oehlenschl ger, and several older poets; and here also, in 1840,1
obtained a place, after I had given in seven pieces. Whilst Thorwaldsen
lived, I often, by his own wish, sate at his side. Oehlenschl ger was
also my neighbor, and in many an evening hour, when no one dreamed of
it, my soul was steeped in deep humility, as I sate between these great
spirits. The different periods of my life passed before me; the time
when I sate on the hindmost bench in the box of the female figurantes,
as well as that in which, full of childish superstition, I knelt down
there upon the stage and repeated the Lord's Prayer, just before the
very place where I now sate among the first and the most distinguished
men. At the time, perhaps, when a countryman of mine thus thought of
and passed judgment upon me,--"there he sits, between the two great
spirits, full of arrogance and pride;" he may now perceive by this
acknowledgment how unjustly he has judged me. Humility, and prayer to
God for strength to deserve my happiness, filled my heart. May He
always enable me to preserve these feelings? I enjoyed the friendship
of Thorwaldsen as well as of Oehlenschl ger, those two most
distinguished stars in the horizon of the North. I may here bring
forward their reflected glory in and around me.

There is in the character of Oehlenschl ger, when he is not seen in the
circles of the great, where he is quiet and reserved, something so open
and child-like, that no one can help becoming attached to him. As a
poet, he holds in the North a position of as great importance as Goethe
did in Germany. He is in his best works so penetrated by the spirit of
the North, that through him it has, as it were, ascended upon all
nations. In foreign countries he is not so much appreciated. The works
by which he is best known are "Correggio" and "Aladdin;" but assuredly
his masterly poem of "The Northern Gods" occupied a far higher rank: it
is our "Iliad." It possesses power, freshness--nay, any expression of
mine is poor. It is possessed of grandeur; it is the poet
Oehlenschl ger in the bloom of his soul. Hakon, Jarl, and Palnatoke
will live in the poetry of Oehlenschl ger as long as mankind endures.
Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have fully appreciated him, and have shown
him that they do so, and whenever it is asked who occupies the first
place in the kingdom of mind, the palm is always awarded to him. He is
the true-born poet; he appears always young, whilst he himself, the
oldest of all, surpasses all in the productiveness of his mind. He
listened with friendly disposition to my first lyrical outpourings; and
he acknowledged with earnestness and cordiality the poet who told the
fairy-tales. My Biographer in the Danish Pantheon brought me in contact
with Oehlenschl ger, when he said, "In our days it is becoming more and
more rare for any one, by implicitly following those inborn impulses of
his soul, which make themselves irresistibly felt, to step forward as
an artist or a poet. He is more frequently fashioned by fate and
circumstances than apparently destined by nature herself for this
office. With the greater number of our poets an early acquaintance with
passion, early inward experience, or outward circumstances, stand
instead of the original vein of nature, and this cannot in any case be
more incontestably proved in our own literature than by instancing
Oehlenschl ger and Andersen. And in this way it may be explained why
the former has been so frequently the object for the attacks of the
critics, and why the latter was first properly appreciated as a poet in
foreign countries where civilization of a longer date has already
produced a disinclination for the compulsory rule of schools, and has
occasioned a reaction towards that which is fresh and natural; whilst
we Danes, on the contrary, cherish a pious respect for the yoke of the
schools and the worn-out wisdom of maxims."

Thorwaldsen, whom, as I have already said, I had become acquainted with
in Rome in the years 1833 and 1834, was expected in Denmark in the
autumn of 1838, and great festive preparations were made in
consequence. A flag was to wave upon one of the towers of Copenhagen as
soon as the vessel which brought him should come in sight. It was a
national festival. Boats decorated with flowers and flags filled the
Rhede; painters, sculptors, all had their flags with emblems; the
students' bore a Minerva, the poets' a Pegasus. It was misty weather,
and the ship was first seen when it was already close by the city, and
all poured out to meet him. The poets, who, I believe, according to the
arrangement of Heiberg, had been invited, stood by their boat;
Oehlenschl ger and Heiberg alone had not arrived. And now guns were
fired from the ship, which came to anchor, and it was to be feared that
Thorwaldsen might land before we had gone out to meet him. The wind
bore the voice of singing over to us: the festive reception had already

I wished to see him, and therefore cried out to the others, "Let us put

"Without Oehlenschl ger and Heiberg?" asked some one.

"But they are not arrived, and it will be all over."

One of the poets declared that if these two men were not with us, I
should not sail under that flag, and pointed up to Pegasus.

"We will throw it in the boat," said I, and took it down from the
staff; the others now followed me, and came up just as Thorwaldsen
reached land. We met with Oehlenschl ger and Heiberg in another boat,
and they came over to us as the enthusiasm began on shore.

The people drew Thorwaldsen's carriage through the streets to his
house, where everybody who had the slightest acquaintance with him, or
with the friends of a friend of his, thronged around him. In the
evening the artists gave him a serenade, and the blaze of the torches
illumined the garden under the large trees, there was an exultation and
joy which really and truly was felt. Young and old hastened through the
open doors, and the joyful old man clasped those whom he knew to his
breast, gave them his kiss, and pressed their hands. There was a glory
round Thorwaldsen which kept me timidly back: my heart beat for joy of
seeing him who had met me when abroad with kindness and consolation,
who had pressed me to his heart, and had said that we must always
remain friends. But here in this jubilant crowd, where thousands
noticed every movement of his, where I too by all these should be
observed and criticised--yes, criticised as a vain man who now only
wished to show that he too was acquainted with Thorwaldsen, and that
this great man was kind and friendly towards him--here, in this dense
crowd, I drew myself back, and avoided being recognized by him. Some
days afterwards, and early in the morning, I went to call upon him, and
found him as a friend who had wondered at not having seen me earlier.

In honor of Thorwaldsen a musical-poetic academy was established, and
the poets, who were invited to do so by Heiberg, wrote and read each
one a poem in praise of him who had returned home. I wrote of Jason who
fetched the golden fleece--that is to say, Jason-Thorwaldsen, who went
forth to win golden art. A great dinner and a ball closed the festival,
in which, for the first time in Denmark, popular life and a subject of
great interest in the realms of art were made public.

From this evening I saw Thorwaldsen almost daily in company or in his
studio: I often passed several weeks together with him at Nys÷, where
he seemed to have firmly taken root, and where the greater number of
his works, executed in Denmark, had their origin. He was of a healthful
and simple disposition of mind, not without humor, and, therefore, he
was extremely attached to Holberg the poet: he did not at all enter
into the troubles and the disruptions of the world.

One morning at Nys÷--at the time when he was working at his own statue
--I entered his work-room and bade him good morning; he appeared as if
he did not wish to notice me, and I stole softly away again. At
breakfast he was very parsimonious in the use of words, and when
somebody asked him to say something at all events, he replied in his
dry way:--

"I have said more during this morning than in many whole days, but
nobody heard me. There I stood, and fancied that Andersen was behind
me, for he came, and said good morning--so I told him a long story
about myself and Byron. I thought that he might give one word in reply,
and turned myself round; and there had I been standing a whole hour and
chattering aloud to the bare walls."

We all of us besought him to let us hear the whole story yet once more;
but we had it now very short.

"Oh, that was in Rome," said he, "when I was about to make Byron's
statue; he placed himself just opposite to me, and began immediately to
assume quite another countenance to what was customary to him. 'Will not
you sit still?' said I; 'but you must not make these faces.' 'It is my
expression,' said Byron. 'Indeed?' said I, and then I made him as I
wished, and everybody said, when it was finished, that I had hit the
likeness. When Byron, however, saw it, he said, 'It does not resemble
me at all; I look more unhappy.'"

"He was, above all things, so desirous of looking extremely unhappy,"
added Thorwaldsen, with a comic expression.

It afforded the great sculptor pleasure to listen to music after dinner
with half-shut eyes, and it was his greatest delight when in the
evening the game of lotto began, which the whole neighborhood of Nys÷
was obliged to learn; they only played for glass pieces, and on this
account I am able to relate a peculiar characteristic of this otherwise
great man--that he played with the greatest interest on purpose to win.
He would espouse with warmth and vehemence the part of those from whom
he believed that he had received an injustice; he opposed himself to
unfairness and raillery, even against the lady of the house, who for
the rest had the most childlike sentiments towards him, and who had no
other thought than how to make everything most agreeable to him. In his
company I wrote several of my tales for children--for example, "Ole
Luck Oin," ("Ole Shut Eye,") to which he listened with pleasure and
interest. Often in the twilight, when the family circle sate in the
open garden parlor, Thorwaldsen would come softly behind me, and,
clapping me on the shoulder, would ask, "Shall we little ones hear any
tales tonight?"

In his own peculiarly natural manner he bestowed the most bountiful
praise on my fictions, for their truth; it delighted him to hear the
same stories over and over again. Often, during his most glorious
works, would he stand with laughing countenance, and listen to the
stories of the Top and the Ball, and the Ugly Duckling. I possess a
certain talent of improvising in my native tongue little poems and
songs. This talent amused Thorwaldsen very much; and as he had
modelled, at Nys÷, Holberg's portrait in clay, I was commissioned to
make a poem for his work, and he received, therefore, the following

"No more shall Holberg live," by Death was said,
"I crush the clay, his soul's bonds heretofore."
"And from the formless clay, the cold, the dead,"
Cried Thorwaldsen, "shall Holberg live once more."

One morning, when he had just modelled in clay his great bas-relief of
the Procession to Golgotha, I entered his study.

"Tell me," said he, "does it seem to you that I have dressed Pilate

"You must not say anything to him," said the Baroness, who was always
with him: "it is right; it is excellent; go away with you!"

Thorwaldsen repeated his question.

"Well, then," said I, "as you ask me, I must confess that it really
does appear to me as if Pilate were dressed rather as an Egyptian than
as a Roman."

"It seems to me so too," said Thorwaldsen, seizing the clay with his
hand, and destroying the figure.

"Now you are guilty of his having annihilated an immortal work,"
exclaimed the Baroness to me with warmth.

"Then we can make a new immortal work," said he, in a cheerful humor,
and modelled Pilate as he now remains in the bas-relief in the Ladies'
Church in Copenhagen.

His last birth-day was celebrated there in the country. I had written a
merry little song, and it was hardly dry on the paper, when we sang it,
in the early morning, before his door, accompanied by the music of
jingling fire-irons, gongs, and bottles rubbed against a basket.
Thorwaldsen himself, in his morning gown and slippers, opened his door,
and danced round his chamber; swung round his Raphael's cap, and joined
in the chorus. There was life and mirth in the strong old man.

On the last day of his life I sate by him at dinner; he was unusually
good-humored; repeated several witticisms which he had just read in the
Corsair, a well-known Copenhagen newspaper, and spoke of the journey
which he should undertake to Italy in the summer. After this we parted;
he went to the theatre, and I home.

On the following morning the waiter at the hotel where I lived said,
"that it was a very remarkable thing about Thorwaldsen--that he had
died yesterday."

"Thorwaldsen!" exclaimed I; "he is not dead, I dined with him

"People say that he died last evening at the theatre," returned the
waiter. I fancied that he might be taken ill; but still I felt a
strange anxiety, and hastened immediately over to his house. There lay
his corpse stretched out on the bed; the chamber was filled with
strangers; the floor wet with melted snow; the air stifling; no one
said a word: the Baroness Stampe sate on the bed and wept bitterly. I
stood trembling and deeply agitated.

A farewell hymn, which I wrote, and to which Hartmann composed the
music, was sung by Danish students over his coffin.


In the summer of 1842, I wrote a little piece for the summer theatre,
called, "The Bird in the Pear-tree," in which several scenes were acted
up in the pear-tree. I had called it a dramatic trifle, in order that
no one might expect either a great work or one of a very elaborate
character. It was a little sketch, which, after being performed a few
times, was received with so much applause, that the directors of the
theatre accepted it; nay, even Mrs. Heiberg, the favorite of the
public, desired to take a part in it. People had amused themselves; had
thought the selection of the music excellent. I knew that the piece had
stood its rehearsal--and then suddenly it was hissed. Some young men,
who gave the word to hiss, had said to some others, who inquired from
them their reasons for doing so, that the trifle had too much luck, and
then Andersen would be getting too mettlesome.

I was not, on this evening, at the theatre myself, and had not the
least idea of what was going on. On the following I went to the house
of one of my friends. I had head-ache, and was looking very grave. The
lady of the house met me with a sympathizing manner, took my hand, and
said, "Is it really worth while to take it so much to heart? There were
only two who hissed, the whole house beside took your part."

"Hissed! My part! Have I been hissed?" exclaimed I.

It was quite comic; one person assured me that this hissing had been a
triumph for me; everybody had joined in acclamation, and "there was
only one who hissed."

After this, another person came, and I asked him of the number of those
who hissed. "Two," said he. The next person said "three," and said
positively there were no more. One of my most veracious friends now
made his appearance, and I asked him upon his conscience, how many he
had heard; he laid his hand upon his heart, and said that, at the very
highest, they were five.

"No," said I, "now I will ask nobody more; the number grows just as
with Falstaff; here stands one who asserts that there was only one
person who hissed."

Shocked, and yet inclined to set it all right again, he replied, "Yes,
that is possible, but then it was a strong, powerful hiss."

By my last works, and through a rational economy, I had now saved a
small sum of money, which I destined to the purposes of a new journey
to Paris, where I arrived in the winter of 1843, by way of D sseldorf,
through Belgium.

Marmier had already, in the _R vue de Paris_, written an article
on me, _La Vie d'un Po te_. He had also translated several of my
poems into French, and had actually honored me with a poem which is
printed in the above-named _R vue_. My name had thus reached, like
a sound, the ears of some persons in the literary world, and I here met
with a surprisingly friendly reception.

At Victor Hugo's invitation, I saw his abused _Burggraves_. Mr.
and Mrs. Ancelot opened their house to me, and there I met Martinez
della Rosa and other remarkable men of these times. Lamart ne seemed to
me, in his domestic, and in his whole personal appearance, as the
prince of them all. On my apologizing because I spoke such bad French,
he replied, that he was to blame, because he did not understand the
northern languages, in which, as he had discovered in late years, there
existed a fresh and vigorous literature, and where the poetical ground
was so peculiar that you had only to stoop down to find an old golden
horn. He asked about the Trollh tta canal, and avowed a wish to visit
Denmark and Stockholm. He recollected also our now reigning king, to
whom, when as prince he was in Castellamare, he had paid his respects;
besides this, he exhibited for a Frenchman, an extraordinary
acquaintance with names and places in Denmark. On my departure he wrote
a little poem for me, which I preserve amongst my dearest relics.

I generally found the jovial Alexander Dumas in bed, even long after
mid-day: here he lay, with paper, pen, and ink, and wrote his newest
drama. I found him thus one day; he nodded kindly to me, and said, "Sit
down a minute; I have just now a visit from my muse; she will be going
directly." He wrote on; spoke aloud; shouted a _viva!_ sprang out
of bed, and said, "The third act is finished!"

One evening he conducted me round into the various theatres, that I
might see the life behind the scenes. We wandered about, arm in arm,
along the gay Boulevard.

I also have to thank him for my acquaintance with Rachel. I had not
seen her act, when Alexander Dumas asked me whether I had the desire to
make her acquaintance. One evening, when she was to come out as Phedra
he led me to the stage of the Th atre Fran ais. The Representation had
begun, and behind the scenes, where a folding screen had formed a sort
of room, in which stood a table with refreshments, and a few ottomans,
sate the young girl who, as an author has said, understands how to
chisel living statues out of Racine's and Corneille's blocks of marble.
She was thin and slenderly formed, and looked very young. She looked to
me there, and more particularly so afterwards in her own house, as an
image of mourning; as a young girl who has just wept out her sorrow,
and will now let her thoughts repose in quiet. She accosted us kindly
in a deep powerful voice. In the course of conversation with Dumas, she
forgot me. I stood there quite superfluous. Dumas observed it, said
something handsome of me, and on that I ventured to take part in the
discourse, although I had a depressing feeling that I stood before
those who perhaps spoke the most beautiful French in all France. I said
that I truly had seen much that was glorious and interesting, but that
I had never yet seen a Rachel, and that on her account especially had I
devoted the profits of my last work to a journey to Paris; and as, in
conclusion, I added an apology on account of my French, she smiled and
said, "When you say anything so polite as that which you have just said
to me, to a Frenchwoman, she will always think that you speak well."

When I told her that her fame had resounded to the North, she declared
that it was her intention to go to Petersburg and Copenhagen: "and when
I come to your city", she said, "you must be my defender, as you are
the only one there whom I know; and in order that we may become
acquainted, and as you, as you say, are come to Paris especially on my
account, we must see each other frequently. You will be welcome to me.
I see my friends at my house every Thursday. But duty calls," said she,
and offering us her hand, she nodded kindly, and then stood a few paces
from us on the stage, taller, quite different, and with the expression
of the tragic muse herself. Joyous acclamations ascended to where we

As a Northlander I cannot accustom myself to the French mode of acting
tragedy. Rachel plays in this same style, but in her it appears to be
nature itself; it is as if all the others strove to imitate her. She is
herself the French tragic muse, the others are only poor human beings.
When Rachel plays people fancy that all tragedy must be acted in this
manner. It is in her truth and nature, but under another revelation to
that with which we are acquainted in the north.

At her house everything is rich and magnificent, perhaps too
_recherch _. The innermost room was blue-green, with shaded lamps
and statuettes of French authors. In the salon, properly speaking, the
color which prevailed principally in the carpets, curtains, and
bookcases was crimson. She herself was dressed in black, probably as
she is represented in the well-known English steel engraving of her.
Her guests consisted of gentlemen, for the greater part artists and men
of learning. I also heard a few titles amongst them. Richly apparelled
servants announced the names of the arrivals; tea was drunk and
refreshments handed round, more in the German than the French style.

Victor Hugo had told me that he found she understood the German
language. I asked her, and she replied in German, "ich kann es lesen;
ich bin ja in Lothringen geboren; ich habe deutsche B cher, sehn Sie
hier!" and she showed me Grillparzer's "Sappho," and then immediately
continued the conversation in French. She expressed her pleasure in
acting the part of Sappho, and then spoke of Schiller's "Maria Stuart,"
which character she has personated in a French version of that play. I
saw her in this part, and she gave the last act especially with such a
composure and tragic feeling, that she might have been one of the best
of German actresses; but it was precisely in this very act that the
French liked her least.

"My countrymen," said she, "are not accustomed to this manner, and in
this manner alone can the part be given. No one should be raving when
the heart is almost broken with sorrow, and when he is about to take an
everlasting farewell of his friends."

Her drawing-room was, for the most part, decorated with books which
were splendidly bound and arranged in handsome book-cases behind glass.
A painting hung on the wall, which represented the interior of the
theatre in London, where she stood forward on the stage, and flowers
and garlands were thrown to her across the orchestra. Below this
picture hung a pretty little book-shelf, holding what I call "the high
nobility among the poets,"--Goethe, Schiller, Calderon, Shakspeare, &c.

She asked me many questions respecting Germany and Denmark, art, and
the theatre; and she encouraged me with a kind smile around her grave
mouth, when I stumbled in French and stopped for a moment to collect
myself, that I might not stick quite fast.

"Only speak," said she. "It is true that you do not speak French well.
I have heard many foreigners speak my native language better; but their
conversation has not been nearly as interesting as yours. I understand
the sense of your words perfectly, and that is the principal thing
which interests me in you."

The last time we parted she wrote the following words in my album:
"L'art c'est le vrai! J'esp re que cet aphorisme ne semblera pas
paradoxal un crivain si distingu comme M. Andersen."

I perceived amiability of character in Alfred de Vigny. He has married
an English lady, and that which is best in both nations seemed to unite
in his house. The last evening which I spent in Paris, he himself, who
is possessed of intellectual status and worldly wealth, came almost at
midnight to my lodging in the Rue Richelieu, ascended the many steps,
and brought me his works under his arm. So much cordiality beamed in
his eyes and he seemed to be so full of kindness towards me, that I
felt affected by our separation.

I also became acquainted with the sculptor David. There was a something
in his demeanor and in his straightforward manner that reminded me of
Thorwaldsen and Bissen, especially of the latter. We did not meet till
towards the conclusion of my residence in Paris. He lamented it, and
said that he would execute a bust of me if I would remain there longer.

When I said, "But you know nothing of me as a poet, and cannot tell
whether I deserve it or not," he looked earnestly in my face, clapped
me on the shoulder, and said, "I have, however, read you yourself
before your books. You are a poet."

At the Countess ----'s, where I met with Balzac, I saw an old lady, the
expression of whose countenance attracted my attention. There was
something so animated, so cordial in it, and everybody gathered about
her. The Countess introduced me to her, and I heard that she was Madame
Reybaud, the authoress of Les Epaves, the little story which I had made
use of for my little drama of The Mulatto. I told her all about it, and
of the representation of the piece, which interested her so much, that
she became from this evening my especial protectress. We went out one
evening together and exchanged ideas. She corrected my French and
allowed me to repeat what did not appear correct to her. She is a lady
of rich mental endowments, with a clear insight into the world, and she
showed maternal kindness towards me.

I also again met with Heine. He had married since I was last here. I
found him in indifferent health; but full of energy, and so friendly
and so natural in his behavior towards me, that I felt no timidity in
exhibiting myself to him as I was. One day he had been relating to his
wife my story of the Constant Tin Soldier, and, whilst he said that I
was the author of this story, he introduced me to her. She was a
lively, pretty young lady. A troop of children, who, as Heine says,
belonged to a neighbor, played about in their room. We two played with
them whilst Heine copied out one of his last poems for me.

I perceived in him no pain-giving, sarcastic smile; I only heard the
pulsation of a German heart, which is always perceptible in the songs,
and which _must_ live.

Through the means of the many people I was acquainted with here, among
whom I might enumerate many others, as, for instance, Kalkbrenner,
Gathy, &c., my residence in Paris was made very cheerful and rich in
pleasure. I did not feel myself like a stranger there: I met with a
friendly reception among the greatest and best. It was like a payment
by anticipation of the talent which was in me, and through which they
expected that I would some time prove them not to have been mistaken.

Whilst I was in Paris, I received from Germany, where already several
of my works were translated and read, a delightful and encouraging
proof of friendship. A German family, one of the most highly cultivated
and amiable with whom I am acquainted, had read my writings with
interest, especially the little biographical sketch prefixed to Only a
Fiddler, and felt the heartiest goodwill towards me, with whom they
were then not personally acquainted. They wrote to me, expressed their
thanks for my works and the pleasure they had derived from them, and
offered me a kind welcome to their house if I would visit it on my
return home. There was a something extremely cordial and natural in
this letter, which was the first that I received of this kind in Paris,
and it also formed a remarkable contrast to that which was sent to me
from my native land in the year 1833, when I was here for the first

In this way I found myself, through my writings, adopted, as it were,
into a family to which since then I gladly betake myself, and where I
know that it is not only as the poet, but as the man, that I am
beloved. In how many instances have I not experienced the same kindness
in foreign countries! I will mention one for the sake of its

There lived in Saxony a wealthy and benevolent family; the lady of the
house read my romance of Only a Fiddler, and the impression of this
book was such that she vowed that, if ever, in the course of her life,
she should meet with a poor child which was possessed of great musical
talents, she would not allow it to perish as the poor Fiddler had done.
A musician who had heard her say this, brought to her soon after, not
one, but two poor boys, assuring her of their talent, and reminding her
of her promise. She kept her word: both boys were received into her
house, were educated by her, and are now in the Conservatorium; the
youngest of them played before me, and I saw that his countenance was
happy and joyful. The same thing perhaps might have happened; the same
excellent lady might have befriended these children without my book
having been written: but notwithstanding this, my book is now connected
with this as a link in the chain.

On my return home from Paris, I went along the Rhine; I knew that the
poet Frieligrath, to whom the King of Prussia had given a pension, was
residing in one of the Rhine towns. The picturesque character of his
poems had delighted me extremely, and I wished to talk with him. I
stopped at several towns on the Rhine, and inquired after him. In St.
Goar, I was shown the house in which he lived. I found him sitting at
his writing table, and he appeared annoyed at being disturbed by a
stranger. I did not mention my name; but merely said that I could not
pass St. Goar without paying my respects to the poet Frieligrath.

"That is very kind of you," said he, in a very cold tone; and then
asked who I was.

"We have both of us one and the same friend, Chamisso!" replied I, and
at these words he leapt up exultantly.

"You are then Andersen!" he exclaimed; threw his arms around my neck,
and his honest eyes beamed with joy.

"Now you will stop several days here," said he. I told him that I could
only stay a couple of hours, because I was travelling with some of my
countrymen who were waiting for me.

"You have a great many friends in little St. Goar," said he; "it is but
a short time since I read aloud your novel of O. T. to a large circle;
one of these friends I must, at all events, fetch here, and you must
also see my wife. Yes, indeed, you do not know that you had something
to do in our being married."

He then related to me how my novel, Only a Fiddler, had caused them to
exchange letters, and then led to their acquaintance, which
acquaintance had ended in their being a married couple. He called her,
mentioned to her my name, and I was regarded as an old friend. Such
moments as these are a blessing; a mercy of God, a happiness--and how
many such, how various, have I not enjoyed!

I relate all these, to me, joyful occurrences; they are facts in my
life: I relate them, as I formerly have related that which was
miserable, humiliating, and depressing; and if I have done so, in the
spirit which operated in my soul, it will not be called pride or
vanity;--neither of them would assuredly be the proper name for it. But
people may perhaps ask at home, Has Andersen then never been attacked
in foreign countries? I must reply,--no!

No regular attack has been made upon me, at least they have never at
home called my attention to any such, and therefore there certainly
cannot have been anything of the kind;--with the exception of one which
made its appearance in Germany, but which originated in Denmark, at the
very moment when I was in Paris.

A certain Mr. Boas made a journey at that time through Scandinavia, and
wrote a book on the subject. In this he gave a sort of survey of Danish
literature, which he also published in the journal called Die
Grenzboten; in this I was very severely handled as a man and as a poet.
Several other Danish poets also, as for instance, Christian Winter,
have an equally great right to complain. Mr. Boas had drawn his
information out of the miserable gossip of every-day life; his work
excited attention in Copenhagen, and nobody there would allow
themselves to be considered as his informants; nay even Holst the poet,
who, as may be seen from the work, travelled with him through Sweden,
and had received him at his house in Copenhagen, on this occasion
published, in one of the most widely circulated of our papers, a
declaration that he was in no way connected with Mr. Boas.

Mr. Boas had in Copenhagen attached himself to a particular clique
consisting of a few young men; he had heard them full of lively
spirits, talking during the day, of the Danish poets and their
writings; he had then gone home, written down what he had heard and
afterwards published it in his work. This was, to use the mildest term,
inconsiderate. That my Improvisatore and Only a Fiddler did not please
him, is a matter of taste, and to that I must submit myself. But when
he, before the whole of Germany, where probably people will presume
that what he has written is true, if he declare it to be, as is the
case, the universal judgment against me in my native land; when he, I
say, declared me before the whole of Germany, to be the most haughty of
men, he inflicts upon me a deeper wound than he perhaps imagined. He
conveyed the voice of a party, formerly hostile to me, into foreign
countries. Nor is he true even in that which he represents; he gives
circumstances as facts, which never took place.

In Denmark what he has written could not injure me, and many have
declared themselves afraid of coming into contact with any one, who
printed everything which he heard. His book was read in Germany, the
public of which is now also mine; and I believe, therefore, that I may
here say how faulty is his view of Danish literature and Danish poets;
in what manner his book was received in my native land and that people
there know in what way it was put together. But after I have expressed
myself thus on this subject I will gladly offer Mr. Boas my hand; and
if, in his next visit to Denmark, no other poet will receive him, I
will do my utmost for him; I know that he will not be able to judge me
more severely when we know each other, than when we knew each other
not. His judgment would also have been quite of another character had
he come to Denmark but one year later; things changed very much in a
year's time. Then the tide had turned in my favor; I then had published
my new children's stories, of which from that moment to the present
there prevailed, through the whole of my native land, but one
unchanging honorable opinion. When the edition of my collection of
stories came out at Christmas 1843, the reaction began; acknowledgment
of my merits were made, and favor shown me in Denmark, and from that
time I have no cause for complaint. I have obtained and I obtain in my
own land that which I deserve, nay perhaps, much more.

I will now turn to those little stories which in Denmark have been
placed by every one, without any hesitation, higher than anything else
I had hitherto written.

In the year 1835, some months after I published the Improvisatore, I
brought out my first volume of Stories for Children, [Footnote: I find
it very difficult to give a correct translation of the original word.
The Danish is _Eventyr_, equivalent to the German _Abentheur_,
or adventure; but adventures give in English a very different idea to this
class of stories. The German word _M rchen,_ gives the meaning
completely, and this we may English by _fairy tale_ or _legend,_ but
then neither of these words are fully correct with regard to Andersen's
stories. In my translation of his "Eventyr fortalte for Born," I gave as
an equivalent title, "Wonderful Stories for Children," and perhaps this
near as I could come.--M. H.] which at that time was not so very much
thought of. One monthly critical journal even complained that a young
author who had just published a work like the Improvisatore, should
immediately come out with anything so childish as the tales. I reaped a
harvest of blame, precisely where people ought to have acknowledged
the advantage of my mind producing something in a new direction.
Several of my friends, whose judgment was of value to me, counselled
me entirely to abstain from writing tales, as these were a something for
which I had no talent. Others were of opinion that I had better, first of
all, study the French fairy tale. I would willingly have discontinued
writing them, but they forced themselves from me.

In the volume which I first published, I had, like Mus us, but in my
own manner, related old stories, which I had heard as a child. The
volume concluded with one which was original, and which seemed to have
given the greatest pleasure, although it bore a tolerably near affinity
to a story of Hoffman's. In my increasing disposition for children's
stories, I therefore followed my own impulse, and invented them mostly
myself. In the following year a new volume came out, and soon after
that a third, in which the longest story, The Little Mermaid, was my
own invention. This story, in an especial manner, created an interest
which was only increased by the following volumes. One of these came
out every Christmas, and before long no Christmas tree could exist
without my stones.

Some of our first comic actors made the attempt of relating my little
stories from the stage; it was a complete change from the declamatory
poetry which had been heard to satiety. The Constant Tin Soldier,
therefore, the Swineherd, and the Top and Ball, were told from the
Royal stage, and from those of private theatres, and were well
received. In order that the reader might be placed in the proper point
of view, with regard to the manner in which I told the stories, I had
called my first volume Stories told for Children. I had written my
narrative down upon paper, exactly in the language, and with the
expressions in which I had myself related them, by word of mouth, to
the little ones, and I had arrived at the conviction that people of
different ages were equally amused with them. The children made
themselves merry for the most part over what might be called the
actors, older people, on the contrary, were interested in the deeper
meaning. The stories furnished reading for children and grown people,
and that assuredly is a difficult task for those who will write
children's stories. They met with open doors and open hearts in
Denmark; everybody read them. I now removed the words "told for
children," from my title, and published three volumes of "New Stories,"
all of which were of my own invention, and which were received in my
own country with the greatest favor. I could not wish it greater; I
felt a real anxiety in consequence, a fear of not being able to justify
afterwards such an honorable award of praise.

A refreshing sunshine streamed into my heart; I felt courage and joy,
and was filled, with a living desire of still more and more developing
my powers in this direction,--of studying more thoroughly this class of
writing, and of observing still more attentively the rich wells of
nature out of which I must create it. If attention be paid to the order
in which my stories are written, it certainly will be seen that there
is in them a gradual progression, a clearer working out of the idea, a
greater discretion in the use of agency, and, if I may so speak,
a more healthy tone and a more natural freshness may be perceived.

At this period of my life, I made an acquaintance which was of great
moral and intellectual importance to me. I have already spoken of
several persons and public characters who have had influence on me as
the poet; but none of these have had more, nor in a nobler sense of the
word, than the lady to whom I here turn myself; she, through whom I, at
the same time, was enabled to forget my own individual self, to feel
that which is holy in art, and to become acquainted with the command
which God has given to genius.

I now turn back to the year 1840. One day in the hotel in which I lived
in Copenhagen, I saw the name of Jenny Lind among those of the
strangers from Sweden. I was aware at that time that she was the first
singer in Stockholm. I had been that same year, in this neighbor
country, and had there met with honor and kindness: I thought,
therefore, that it would not be unbecoming in me to pay a visit to the
young artist. She was, at this time, entirely unknown out of Sweden, so
that I was convinced that, even in Copenhagen, her name was known only

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