Many forerunners to the fairy-tale side of his literary production existed; the long tradition of fairy tales includes A Thousand and One Nights (first mentioned in the ninth century), which stood on the bookshelf of his impoverished childhood home. Andersen also heard folktales recounted by the poor women of Odense, and he later renewed acquaintance with these stories by reading Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Child and Household Tales, 1812-1815) by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm as well as the Danish counterpart, Danske Folkeeventyr (Danish Folk Tales, 1822), collected by Mathias Winther. Andersen was also influenced by the German tales known as "Kunstmärchen," written by Ludwig Tieck, E. T. A. Hoffman, Adelbert von Chamisso, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. In Denmark early fairy-tale writers included Adam Oehlenschläger and B. S. Ingemann.
Only 7 of the 156 fairy tales and stories that Andersen published in his lifetime are retellings, in his own style, of folktales. Some of the others, such as "Den lille Havfrue" (The Little Mermaid, 1837) and "Skyggen" (The Shadow, 1847), have literary origins, while a few of the tales are based on legends or historical material. But the majority of Andersen's stories are completely original.
Andersen wrote the story of his life three times. He wrote the first account in 1832 when he was twenty-seven years old and about to embark on a grand cultural tour of Europe. This autobiography remained unfinished and was not published until 1926, when it was discovered by Hans Brix, professor of Danish literature at the University of Copenhagen, who published it then under the title Levnedsbogen (Autobiography). Andersen's first official autobiography was written for inclusion in the German edition of his collected works published beginning in 1847 as volumes one and two under the title Das Märchen meines Lebens ohne Dichtung (and the same year in English as The True Story of My Life ). The Danish version of his autobiography, Mit Livs Eventyr, an edited and expanded edition of the German, was published in 1855 as part of his Samlede Skrifter (Collected Works, 1854-1879). In connection with the ten-volume American "Author's Edition" of his works (1869-1871), Andersen updated his autobiography (volume seven in the collection) to include events up until 1867.
Andersen himself stated in the German version that his life provides the best key to understanding his work. When the French critic Xavier Marmier heard the details of Andersen's life from the author himself and asked whether he might be allowed to tell the story to the rest of the world, Andersen replied, "My life belongs to the world."
This attitude can be explained in two ways. First, Andersen belongs to those modern authors whose lives and work are closely intertwined. Second, the nature of Andersen's life reached far beyond his personal sphere and took on a universal quality. This truth is apparent in the Danish title of his autobiography, translated literally as "The Fairy Tale of My Life." Thus, the genre that made him well known becomes an interpretative model for the course of his life.
The story of Andersen's life is one of unparalleled social and artistic success, rising as he did from the lowest and poorest layer of society to achieve not only the acceptance but the utter devotion of the highest social groups, the artistic elite and royal houses of many European countries. Outwardly, his story was a tremendous success--but he achieved it at great personal and psychological cost.
In spite of several fanciful theories concerning Andersen's origins, what seems most likely is that Andersen's biological father was the impoverished cobbler Hans Andersen who married Hans Christian's mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, on 2 February 1805. Anne Marie was probably about ten years older than her husband, although her exact date of birth is unknown. At the time of her marriage, Anne Marie had a daughter, Karen Marie, who was born out of wedlock in 1799 and who died in Copenhagen in 1846.
Andersen was born on 2 April 1805 in Odense, on Fyn, the second-largest island in Denmark. As he was growing up, he presumably had little or nothing to do with his half sister, because she was sent away at his birth, apparently to her maternal grandmother, and thus did not share his childhood home. Hans Christian was closer to his father's side of the family and had a strong emotional bond with his paternal grandmother.
The Andersen family moved several times during the boy's first two years; presumably, for her son's birth Anne Marie went to stay with an aunt of Andersen's father, who in 1805 occupied one room of the corner house on Hans Jensensstræde. In accordance with the popularly accepted tradition that this was the birthplace of Andersen, Odense Municipality acquired the house in 1905 and made it the center of the present-day Hans Christian Andersen Museum. The house has since become an Andersen icon and is probably the best-known Danish building. But whether it was actually the site of the author's birth cannot be confirmed.
Not until 1807 did the family have a real home, when they rented one room plus a kitchen in a small house on Munkemøllestræde near the Odense River. The house was occupied by two other families as well, each with children, so that twelve people lived together in close quarters under one roof. This house, which today serves as a minor museum to the author's life, was Andersen's childhood home until 1819, when his family moved to another house on the same narrow street but closer to the river. By that time his father was dead, and his mother had remarried.
In his memoirs Andersen says of his mother that she was a pious but superstitious woman and that she could neither read nor write. He gives the impression that she was the stable force in the home and rather overprotective toward her son. His father was inclined toward book learning, but he had been forced into the shoemaker trade by his own father, who was a shoemaker of meager means and former smallholder. Andersen's father was unhappy in the profession that had been thrust upon him, and he dreamed of going out into the world to become something quite different. In Andersen's mind his father's sense of discontent and yearning became coupled with his paternal grandmother's claim that she was a descendant of a prominent German family in Kassel, a claim which had no basis. Both helped to shape the boy's ambitions, which led him to flee Odense and the poverty of his childhood to spend the rest of his life striving for fame and recognition.
Andersen's father owned several books, from which he read aloud to the boy, including A Thousand and One Nights and the comedies of the Dano-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg. The Bible also stood on the bookshelf of their humble home, even though his father, in keeping with the spirit of the eighteenth century, declared himself to be a freethinker and, much to his wife's dismay, insisted on regarding Jesus as a great man, but not the son of God. As an adult, his son also accepted this understanding of who Jesus was. Of great significance was that Andersen's childhood reading included the works of Holberg, who was also an historian and philosopher of morals, who is considered the founder of the Danish theater tradition, and whose comedies continue to entertain Danish audiences today. During the eighteenth century Holberg's plays were also performed in German and eastern European theaters. His humor is regarded as quintessentially Danish, and one may draw a direct line between Holberg's humor and Andersen's, which is also considered typically Danish. As an adult, Andersen even wrote a satirical comedy blatantly reminiscent of Holberg, called Den nye Barselstue (The New Receiving Room, first performed 26 March 1845; first published, 1850).
When Andersen was growing up, Odense, with six thousand residents, was the second-largest city in Denmark. Today it is the third-largest, while Copenhagen, which now has more than a million citizens, was then a city of about a hundred thousand. Even though Odense was a small provincial town, it had ambitions. The city was, and remains today, a bishopric with a thirteenth-century cathedral and several other imposing medieval churches. It had a garrison and a castle, both of which house municipal offices today; Prince Christian Frederik took up residence there as governor of Fyn in 1816. Whenever Andersen's mother was hired to do washing in the castle cellars, she took her son along and let him play in the courtyard. There he sometimes played with little Prince Fritz, who later reigned as Frederik VII from 1849 to 1863.
Most important of all, Odense had its own theater, built in 1795. At the time Copenhagen could boast of only two theaters--the small Court Theater, which in Andersen's day mostly presented Italian operas; and the Royal Theater, established in 1748, which was licensed to present serious Danish dramas. Other than Copenhagen, Odense was the only town in Denmark with a theater, and it could seat an audience of four hundred. During Andersen's childhood a German theater troupe leased the theater for its performances, and in the summer touring actors from Copenhagen's Royal Theater occasionally appeared.
From an early age Andersen was fascinated by the theater world, and once in a while his parents would take him to a performance. He also helped out by delivering theater posters around the city and in return was allowed to keep some of them. At home he stared at the posters, letting his imagination dream up his own comedies, based on the titles of the plays. He also managed to gain admittance to the theater and sometimes even won permission to be an extra in a play--for example, taking the role of the page in Cendrillon (Cinderella, 1812). When Andersen was quite young, his father made him a little puppet theater, and the boy sewed costumes from leftover scraps of fabric.
The theater represented a tangible world of the imagination that could provide an outlet for Andersen's dreams. This world was separate from and elevated above the impoverished working-class daily life that he knew. In it he met actors from Copenhagen whose stories about the Royal Theater lent his dreams direction and gave him the courage to leave Odense at an early age to seek his fortune at the theater in the capital. Andersen maintained a lifelong connection to the theater as a translator, adapter, and author of plays. He was also a devoted theatergoer, often attending performances on a daily basis, both in Copenhagen and abroad. He became extraordinarily knowledgeable about the world of the theater. Perhaps his fairy tales would never have acquired the scenic-dramatic form that they have if Andersen had not literally grown up with the theater.
Andersen's father died in 1816, before the boy turned eleven. At the time, Denmark was involved in the Napoleonic Wars, siding with the French. In 1801 and again in 1807 Copenhagen came under British attack. In the second, decisive battle, the English armada shelled Copenhagen and captured the Danish navy, thus ending a half century of progress and middle-class prosperity built on overseas trade. When peace was declared in 1814, Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden, which had acquired the renegade French general Bernadotte as king. The Norwegians had elected the Danish-born Christian Frederik to be their king, but that same year the Swedes ousted him from power just after he managed to grant Norway a free constitution. Christian Frederik later became King Christian VIII of Denmark.
Thus, Andersen's childhood years were marked by great catastrophes in Denmark and the beginning of a lengthy recession. Oddly enough, however, this period was followed by a cultural explosion that has never been equaled, either before or since. It is known as the Golden Age of Denmark.
The effects of the war were felt in Odense, where Spanish mercenaries occupied the garrison. In 1812 Andersen's father enlisted as a musketeer and joined a contingent of soldiers being sent to Germany in support of Napoleon. In those days military conscription was mandatory only for sons of farmers, while young men living inside the city walls were exempt. A prosperous farmer paid Andersen's father to take the place of his son. A similar episode described in Andersen's third novel, Kun en Spillemand (1837; translated as Only a Fiddler, 1845), suggests that his father was paid 1,000 Rigsdaler, or the equivalent of approximately $15,000 today--quite a fortune for the shoemaker's family. As a result of the disastrous war efforts, however, the Danish government declared bankruptcy in January 1813, and the krone subsequently lost nine-tenths of its value. The family's hopes of a brighter future were crushed.
Andersen's father did not take an active part in the war, since his regiment only reached Holsten. When the soldiers set up camp there, he fell ill and returned home in January 1814, a broken man. He died exactly two years later.
Although affiliation of Denmark with Napoleon represented both a national catastrophe and a great misfortune for the Andersen family, the general public in Denmark as well as the Danish literary circles continued to embrace Napoleon with enthusiasm for many years. In the beginning of his writing career, Andersen also sang the praises of Napoleon, particularly in his early poetry. Napoleon was romanticized as a man of the people who, by virtue of his genius, catapulted himself to the position of the ruler of Europe, only to become a tragic victim of his own greatness and the guile of the British.
The death of Andersen's father brought even worse misery to his wife and son. Anne Marie took in laundry, which she washed in the river, standing bare-legged in the cold water. Andersen went to a school for the poor children of Odense, though his attendance was apparently irregular, and he never learned to spell correctly, a fault that plagued him all his life. Not until late in his career did the critics stop hounding him about this shortcoming.
But the theater was not the only spur to Andersen's dreams of a different and better life. Until he entered puberty, he had a beautiful voice, and he often sang outdoors so that more prosperous families would hear him and invite him inside to sing for them. He became known as the "little nightingale from Fyn." Thus, the roots of his fairy tale "Nattergalen" (The Nightingale, in Nye Eventyr) from 1843 can be found in his early childhood.
Even as a boy he had the ability to attract attention and win the favor of people who might help him achieve his goals. In spite of his awkward manner and far-from-handsome appearance, at a young age Andersen exhibited a talent for enchanting people. He possessed a charisma that he retained all his life and that opened many doors. His stubborn determination in the face of countless disappointments, setbacks, and defeats, along with his irresistible charm, prompted his departure from Odense and his breakthrough as a writer--not, as sometimes is suggested, protection from the Royals to the illegitimate son of a prince (which he was not).
During the years he lived in Odense, Andersen made many contacts that proved beneficial later on, even in Copenhagen. The garrison commander, Colonel Christian Høegh-Guldberg, took a special interest in the boy. One day he took Andersen to see Prince Christian Frederik to seek help for the boy's future. Andersen was full of dreams about the theater, but the sober-minded prince advised him instead to learn a useful trade. In spite of this less-than-encouraging experience, Andersen's contact with Høegh-Guldberg turned out to be valuable. The colonel's brother, who lived in Copenhagen, was a poet, a teacher at the artillery cadet school, and a titular professor. He became one of Andersen's benefactors during those first difficult years in Copenhagen.
In July 1818 Anne Marie remarried. Her new husband was also a shoemaker and twelve or thirteen years younger than his wife. After being overprotected by his mother and the only male in the house for a few years after his father's death, Andersen was now directly exposed to his mother's intimate life in their cramped one-room living quarters. For a boy who lived so much in his imagination, this circumstance no doubt contributed to his decision to leave Odense. It also had a long-lasting psychological effect on his own vexed and confused relationship to sexuality. It was a factor in his constant state of homelessness and flight, his perpetual dream of release and death, and transformation and rebirth--issues that deeply impacted his life and permeated his writings.
About six months after his mother's marriage, Andersen and his family left their home and moved to another small house on the same street. These two events, along with one other milepost--his confirmation at St. Knud's Cathedral on 18 April 1819--marked the end of Andersen's childhood.
An additional reason that young Andersen began thinking about leaving home was that his mother had several times tried to place him in a factory or to apprentice him to a skilled worker. Andersen now seized upon the idea of realizing his old dreams of a theater career. He had saved 13 Rigsdaler, and he persuaded his mother to let him travel to Copenhagen to seek his fortune in the theater. He managed to get a letter of introduction from Christian H. Iversen, a printer and publisher of one of two newspapers in Odense. Iversen's immediate family, and in particular his daughter's family, later had close ties to Andersen in his hometown. The letter was addressed to ballet dancer Madame Schall at the Royal Theater, even though Iversen had never even met her. On 4 September, Andersen traveled by mail coach from Odense to Copenhagen, arriving two days later in the midst of the persecution of the Jews. For years Andersen mistakenly remembered his arrival date as 5 September, and he celebrated that date as his Copenhagen birthday.
When he appeared before Madame Schall and performed for her a dance of his own composition, she dismissed him at once. The theater director did the same, saying that he had absolutely no use for Andersen as an actor. Andersen, however, received help from the contacts he had made while still in Odense. Colonel Guldberg's brother, Frederik Høegh-Guldberg, a professor, gave Andersen a little money and arranged lessons for him. A young woman named Laura Tønder-Lund, who had attended confirmation class with Andersen in Odense and was now living in Copenhagen, also gave him money and paved the way for him to enter the finer social circles in Copenhagen. Andersen himself opened several doors. Until his voice changed, Andersen sought out Italian choirmaster Giuseppe Siboni and became a constant visitor in his home and school. As a result of his visits to Siboni, Andersen also met composer C. E. F. Weyse, who collected money from his friends for the young boy.
Andersen had no intention of giving up and returning to Odense, even though he could not find work in the theater as an actor, a ballet dancer, or a singer. For three years he lived in Copenhagen on a bare subsistence level, taking lodgings for a time in one of the infamous prostitute districts of the city. He sought help from his mother's sister without realizing that she ran a bordello. The only work he managed to find in Copenhagen from 1819 to 1822 was as an extra in the theater, although occasionally he did have a minor role in a play. One high point occurred in April 1821 when his name appeared on a theater poster for the ballet Armida (1821), composed by Carl Dahlén. The list of minor roles included: "A Troll--Mr. Andersen." The same poster announced that the part of Cupid was played by "Johanne Petcher," or rather Johanne Pätges, who later became Johanne Luise Heiberg, the greatest Danish actress of the nineteenth century. She later appeared in several of Andersen's plays.
In 1822 Andersen seemed to have exhausted all hope of a theater career; he set about writing a couple of plays and then submitted them, in the hopes of seeing them performed. The first was a "patriotic tragedy" titled "Røverne i Vissenberg" (The Robbers of Vissenberg), set in a small village west of Odense. The play was rejected with the comment that it lacked any basis in fact, including "basic skills in the Danish language," although the critique did note that there was an "unmistakable trace of artistry" to the drama. The second play, which he submitted immediately after the first was returned, was titled "Alfsol." It met with an equally harsh reception: it was rejected as unsuitable for the theater.
Before learning of the fate of his second play, Andersen tried to launch his literary debut by publishing "Alfsol" along with an autobiographical prologue and a short story that was little more than a Sir Walter Scott pastiche. The title of this volume was Ungdoms-Forsøg (Youthful Attempts, 1822). He did not use his own name but took the pseudonym Villiam (referring to William Shakespeare) Christian (referring to himself) Walter (referring to Sir Walter Scott). The book did not sell at all. The printer, whom Andersen had persuaded to produce the book, later tried to sell the volume with a new cover, but without success. In the end almost all of the copies were shredded; consequently, today it is a costly antiquarian collectible.
The theater manager had asked critic Knud Lyne Rahbek to contribute a literary evaluation, and even though it was negative, Rahbek pointed to traces of potential talent and recommended that the author be given proper training. Andersen was duly summoned to a meeting with the theater managers, who gave him an ultimatum: Either he would accept their offer to attend school and acquire the necessary basic education, or else they were going to wash their hands of him for good. The school was a grammar school in the provincial town of Slagelse on Zealand, and he would have to start at the beginning, along with much younger boys. But the state would pay the cost of his education through a grant from the royal foundation in support of art and education, ad usus publicos (for the public use). Finance councillor Jonas Collin, who was one of the three board members of the theater, was secretary of this foundation. Andersen accepted the offer.
In 1822 Andersen entered Slagelse Grammar School. The headmaster was Simon Meisling, a classical philologist, whose heavy-handed treatment of the boy soon gave rise to conflict. Nevertheless, in accordance with Meisling's wishes, Andersen moved in with the headmaster's family in October 1825. Meisling, who was in dire need of money, received payment for Andersen's room and board. In May 1826 Meisling was transferred to the grammar school in Helsingør, and Andersen followed him, still taking lodgings with the Meisling family. After Andersen complained bitterly about the headmaster's mistreatment of him, Collin took him out of Meisling's school in April 1827 and allowed him to move to Copenhagen. There Andersen was privately tutored until he passed his final exams.
The period in Slagelse had a profound impact on Andersen, however, because he spent his weekends and holidays in the town of Sorø, about 14 kilometers away, visiting the Ingemann family. Romantic poet B. S. Ingemann proved to be a literary and personal mentor for young Andersen as well as a lifelong friend. In 1822 Ingemann was hired as a lecturer at Sorø Academy, where Andersen made two friends--Carl Bagger, who later became a writer and editor for the Odense newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende, and Fritz Petit, who later immigrated to Germany and ended up translating some of Andersen's works into German and writing one of the early German biographies of Andersen.
In Helsingør, Andersen met Rudolph Schley, who was on his way to Libau in East Prussia. Schley took an interest in Andersen and translated into German Andersen's poem "Det døende Barn" (The Dying Child), written in 1826. Schley took the translation along to Libau and had it published there. This work was Andersen's first German-language publication. On 25 September 1827 Andersen had the Danish original and Schley's translation printed side by side in A. P. Liunge's newspaper Kiøbenhavnsposten.
In October of the following year Andersen took his final exams, which were held at the University of Copenhagen. One of the examiners, physicist H. C. Ørsted, was known throughout Europe. He had become personally acquainted with Andersen and later served as an important spiritual mentor for the author. The dean who signed Andersen's certificate was Oehlenschläger, professor of aesthetics at the University of Copenhagen and Andersen's lifelong literary idol. Oehlenschläger's drama Aladdin (1805) became practically a model for understanding the story of Andersen's life and significant facets of his work.
During his student days in Copenhagen, Andersen continued his friendship with Bagger and Petit. Through the latter he met Orla Lehmann, who later became a leader of the liberal students. Along with Bagger and Petit, Andersen became an enthusiastic devotee of the work of Hoffmann, and from Lehmann he learned to appreciate Heinrich Heine . Both authors became important models for Andersen's own writings. Traces of Hoffmann's work can be found in Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager i Aarene 1828 og 1829 (Walking Tour from Holmen's Canal to the Eastern Point of Amager, 1829) and in such fairy tales as "Den lille Idas Blomster" (Little Ida's Flowers), collected in his Eventyr, fortalte for Børn (Fairy Tales, Told for Children, 1835). Heine had an especially strong influence on Andersen's youthful poetry. Even as a student, Andersen, along with his classmate Frederik Paludan-Müller, was singled out by the other students as a promising literary talent.
A few days after passing his final exams, Andersen entered the second company of the Royal Guard. Military service in this regiment was compulsory for all students at that time. In 1830 his fellow soldiers elected him corporal, although he resigned from this position the following year. At his own request he was removed from the roster in 1833-1834 because of his lengthy travels abroad.
On 2 January 1829 Andersen made his real literary debut with Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager , a self-published fantasy work heavily influenced by Hoffmann. Advance interest in the book was assured because several excerpts had been published in 1827-1828 in Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post, Johan Ludvig Heiberg's prominent journal. Heiberg himself wrote a positive review of the book, which Andersen included in the third printing when it appeared in December 1839 (although the copyright page listed 1840 as the publication date). The second printing appeared only three months after the first, this time under the imprint of C. A. Reitzel, the foremost publisher of the Golden Age.
Andersen's dramatic debut was a student farce in the style of a Heiberg vaudeville. Titled Kjærlighed paa Nicolai Taarn eller Hvad siger Parterret? (Love at Nicolai Tower, or What Does the Gallery Say? 1829), the play was performed three times at the Royal Theater in April of the same year.
The vaudeville is of interest only in that it signifies an adherence to a particular genre and tone that were typical of Heiberg, who was the trendsetter and arbiter of theatrical taste at that time. Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager, on the other hand, is an important work in Andersen's literary career. It is significant partly because it features some of the themes that Andersen addressed and expanded upon in later works. It also touches on the darker sides of the psyche. In addition, it seems quite modern in the way in which reality dissolves into "script." The final chapter is a purely formal gesture, consisting entirely of such marks as dashes, periods, and exclamation points.
In October and November 1829 Andersen took his entrance exam at the university in philology and philosophy. Although he had already had poems published in various magazines, his first actual poetry collection, Digte (Poems), appeared on 2 January 1830. Oehlenschläger had ended his debut poetry collection, Digte (1803), with the small drama "Sanct Hansaften-Spil" (A Midsummer Night's Play); Andersen chose a prose piece for the end of his poetry collection. The tale, written in the style of Johann Karl August Musäus, is called "Dødningen" (The Ghost). The author later reworked it into a "proper" fairy tale and renamed it "Reisekammeraten" (The Traveling Companion), which appeared in 1835 in the second volume of Eventyr, fortalte for Børn.
Andersen made a summer trip to Jutland and Fyn in 1830. On the island of Fyn he went to Fåborg to pay a visit to his school friend Christian Voigt and the young man's wealthy family. There he met and fell in love with Christian's sister Riborg, although she was already engaged. Andersen's love for Riborg left its mark on his poetry suite "Hjertets Melodier" (Melodies of the Heart), which was printed for the first time in 1831 as part of Phantasier og Skizzer (Fantasies and Sketches). Thirty years later Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg set this poetry cycle to music. The work was not merely a matter of feigned poetic posturing, however. Andersen's feelings for the young girl were genuine enough, one may assume, because of the role that the Riborg episode plays in "Kjærestefolkene" (The Sweethearts), which Andersen wrote in 1844 after having met Riborg again, this time with her husband and children. At his death, Andersen ostensibly wore a little leather pouch on a ribbon around his neck--a leather pouch that held Riborg's farewell letter to him. (In accordance with the author's wishes, this letter was burned unread.) Interestingly enough, the Riborg episode marks the culmination, "Katastrofen" (The Catastrophe), of Andersen's unfinished first autobiography, Levnedsbogen, while it is mentioned only in passing in Mit Livs Eventyr.
The money that Andersen earned with Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager enabled him to undertake the first of his nearly thirty trips abroad. His travels took him first to Germany, and his itinerary was planned to correspond more or less with the travels of several people, including Ingemann, who gave him a letter of introduction to Tieck in Dresden, and Henriette Wulff, who had been a pupil of the Norwegian-born painter J. C. Dahl in Dresden. Andersen also based his plans on the ideas of his future foe Christian Molbech, who published a three-volume travel book in 1821-1822 titled Reise giennem en Deel af Tydskland, Frankrige, England og Italien i Aarene 1819 og 1820 (Travels through Parts of Germany, France, England, and Italy during 1819-1820). Andersen also gleaned advice from his new literary model, Heine, whose Harzreise (Harz Journey) appeared in 1826 in the first section of his Reisebilder (Travel Sketches).
In Berlin on his homeward journey Andersen made the acquaintance of Romanticist Chamisso, author of Peter Schlemihl (The Shadowless Man, 1814), which served as the model for Andersen's story "Skyggen" (The Shadow). Chamisso translated some of Andersen's poems into German, and Robert Schumann later set some of them to music. Only a few months after Andersen returned home in 1831, he was able to present to his readers a travel book titled Skyggebilleder af en Reise til Harzen og det sachsiske Schweiz . . . i Sommeren 1831 (Shadow Pictures of a Journey to the Harz and the Saxon Switzerland . . . in the Summer of 1831). This book represented a breakthrough in Andersen's writing toward a more painterly prose. It also allowed him to express his politically liberal sympathies. In terms of literature, the model for the book was neither Molbech nor Heine but Jens Baggesen's Labyrinten (The Labyrinth, 1792, 1793). In the context of Andersen's oeuvre, this travel book is the first prose work in which the author's feeling for nature and, thus, the theme of nature are fully developed, as yhey are in his poetry of the same time period; in Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager the central focus was on the city, while nature was virtually absent. With Skyggebilleder af en Reise til Harzen og det sachsiske Schweiz . . . i Sommeren 1831 nature moves to the foreground in all of Andersen's writing.
Andersen's major work in the first half of the 1830s was the large poetry collection Phantasier og Skizzer, in which the influence of Heine's Buch der Lieder (Book of Ballads, 1827) is fully realized. Andersen took on many different types of work during these years, including translating, adapting, and writing plays, though not many of them prompted a positive response. His furious output was driven by his perpetual need for money. As a member of the Student Association, he took on the role of actor and also wrote revues. Andersen's dramatic works from the period include his libretto for the opera Ravnen (The Raven; first performed and first published, 1832) with music by J. P. E. Hartmann. Andersen's Levnedsbogen, written the same year, marks a further development in his prose toward a focus on the "local" (typical of the new realism of the period), the interesting psychological self-portrait, and a painterly style. It is the liveliest of Andersen's autobiographies, full of personal details. Thematically, it is similar to a bildungsroman, which moves toward an ultimate realization of a writer's life and includes the emotional breakthrough that comes with "first love."
Andersen had a fervent desire to escape the growing negative criticism of his theater work, since it was having an unfavorable impact on his other publications. Andersen submitted to King Frederik VI his poetry suite Aarets tolv Maaneder, Tegnede med Blæk og Pen (The Year's Twelve Months, Sketched with Pen and Ink, 1832) in an attempt to draw attention to himself as a candidate for a major travel grant from the ad usus publicos fund. The king took little notice of the book, but with the intercession of Collin and several others, Andersen did receive a grant for a lengthy cultural tour, although his name remained on a waiting list for some time. His travels took him via Germany to France and Italy, where he stayed for more than six months, mainly in Rome. There he became friends with Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, poet Ludvig Bødtcher, and painter Albert Küchler, who painted Andersen's portrait. Andersen also stayed in Naples, where he climbed Mount Vesuvius during an eruption.
During his stays in both Paris and Le Locle, Switzerland, he had poured his heart into the dramatic poem "Agnete og Havmanden" (Agnete and the Merman, 1833), which he sent back to Copenhagen. It was published just before Christmas, and after New Year's Day he received in Rome some harshly critical letters from home, including one from his friend Edvard Collin. This denigration of his work crushed Andersen. Thorvaldsen had to step in and bolster his artistic courage.
Just as Andersen's arrival in Copenhagen on 6 September 1819 was a landmark in his life, his first day in Rome, 18 October 1833, was also significant. Thus, he had three birthdays in his lifetime: his real birthday, his Copenhagen birthday, and his Roman one.
That Andersen's arrival in Rome became a landmark event in his life undoubtedly was tied to his desire to put himself on equal footing with Thorvaldsen, who always celebrated his own Roman birthday. Andersen began viewing the sculptor's life as analogous to his own. Thorvaldsen was an artist who, by virtue of his genius, had worked his way up from impoverished circumstances to European acclaim. References to Thorvaldsen appear many places in Andersen's writings. When the sculptor died in 1844, Andersen wrote both a poem and an article in homage.
In personal terms, Andersen found Italy to be the first suitable counterpart to his own emotional and fiery nature, which was so unlike the generally sedate Danish temperament. The opposition of north and south was a widespread theme of the period and had been ever since Oehlenschläger's Vaulundurs Saga and Aladdin (collected in his Poetiske Skrifter [Poetic Writings, 1805]).
Back home in Denmark, Andersen had claimed that a writer should adopt the methods of a painter (the aesthetic program for Skyggebilleder af en Reise til Harzen og det sachsiske Schweiz . . . i Sommeren 1831), but in Italy he truly learned to see with the eye of a painter, a process that can be traced in the sketches from his Italian sojourn.
That Italy set its mark and signaled a personal and artistic new departure for him is evident in the novel that he began writing during his stay, Improvisatoren (1835; translated as The Improvisatore; or, Life in Italy , 1845). As early as 1830 he had started planning to write an historical novel, a fragment of which, "Christian den Andens Dværg" (Christian II's Dwarf), has survived. The success that Scott and Ingemann had enjoyed with their historical novels invited imitation. But Improvisatoren marked Andersen's breakthrough as a writer of contemporary novels, and at the same time he launched the modern novel in earnest in Danish literature.
Although Andersen had put a great deal of effort into the dramatic genres and poetry, by 1835 he realized, as he recounts in a letter, that he wanted to be "den første romanfatter i Danmark" (the foremost novelist in Denmark). Only a few weeks after the Danish publication of Improvisatoren, the German edition appeared, so the translation must have been under way simultaneously. The novel was well received in both Denmark and Germany, and it marked a turning point in Andersen's writing career. In personal terms, his return home from Italy also heralded the start of a new phase of his life, with new skills and experiences acquired during his stay abroad.
Improvisatoren is a colorful novel, with an autobiographical strain, about an artist; it depicts the upbringing and development of a poor Italian boy until he makes his breakthrough as a singer and poet, an improviser, who seizes inspiration from the moment and transforms it into art. Life and art--also, love and art--merge into a harmonious whole in the novel. Furthermore, the story embeds the remarkable destiny of the protagonist in vividly colored descriptions of Italian landscapes and cities, with an active Vesuvius and the Blue Grotto in Capri (at that time newly discovered) as the picturesque and symbolic high points. It is the first bildungsroman in Danish literature, a genre that had its birth and prototype in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister (1795-1796), though most Danish examples of this type of novel appear in the 1850s and 1860s. As a bildungsroman, Improvisatoren attempts to reconcile dream and reality, art and life, the spiritual and the temporal, the individual and society.
In that same year--1835--two slim, modest-looking books also appeared titled Eventyr, fortalte for Børn. The first volume comprised "Fyrtøiet" (The Tinderbox), "Lille Claus og store Claus" (Little Claus and Big Claus), "Prindsessen paa Ærten" (The Princess on the Pea), and "Den lille Idas Blomster." Of these stories the first two were retellings, in Andersen's own style, of folktales he had heard as a child. The second volume, which appeared just before Christmas, comprised "Tommelise" (Thumbelina), "Den uartige Dreng" (The Naughty Boy), and "Reisekammeraten." The first and last of these stories were again retellings of folktales. Until 1841 the fairy-tale collections bore the subtitle "fortalte for Børn." From 1843 on, Andersen omitted the subtitle, and in 1850 he began alternating "fairy tales" with "stories." Originally, Andersen's primary intention with his children's fairy tales had been to earn money. In the late 1820s a growing market arose in Denmark for children's literature. In the mid 1830s Andersen's strongest critic, Molbech, began publishing a series of booklets called Julegaver for Børn (Christmas Gifts for Children), to which a female writer named Sille Beyer contributed fairy tales in the sentimental and moralizing spirit that characterized the Biedermeier period in early-nineteenth-century Europe. Andersen wanted to tap this new market, and at first that was the extent of his ambition in this genre. His real literary ambitions were directed at drama and, above all, novels.
After seeing the first fairy tales, Andersen's older friend and mentor, physicist Ørsted, told him that although his novels might make him famous, his fairy tales would make him immortal. Andersen mentioned this in a letter, adding that he did not believe it. For him, the important thing was to make his mark as a novelist.
During the 1830s Andersen published three novels in rapid succession. In 1836 the novel O.T. (translated, 1845) appeared, followed in 1837 by Kun en Spillemand. With O.T. the setting shifts to Denmark, and the novel represents a northern counterpart to Improvisatoren. In this new novel the emphasis is on social and psychological themes in the depiction of the main character, Otto Thostrup, whose initials form the title of the work. The initials "O.T." are also a brand on Otto's shoulder, a social brand that shows he was born at Odense Tugthus (Odense Jailhouse). As an adult, Otto tries to conceal this mark, and in one ominous scene he even attempts to scour it off, because it makes him an outcast, socially unacceptable.
In the beginning of the novel Otto is a student, in those days a part of the intellectual elite. At the same time, he has set his sights on the upper echelons of society by falling in love with a young baroness who is the sister of one of his classmates. The novel is not a bildungsroman; rather, it is a progressive unveiling--also for the protagonist--of the dark past and its consequences in the present. The latter has to do with identifying Otto's sister. Is she the bestial, demonic woman named Sidsel or the angelic, poor, and virginal but much-sought-after girl named Eva? In keeping with the aesthetic fascination of the period with what was called "interesting" (meaning what was complex, hidden, demonic, and more or less forbidden), the novel is a study in traumas and social and psychological suppression, in spite of its positive ending. O.T. was also translated into several languages, but it did not win the same acclaim and popularity as Andersen's first novel.
An event that gave real impetus to the spread of Andersen's fame abroad was a meeting that took place in 1837. The much-traveled French critic Marmier, who was familiar with Scandinavian literature, was on a visit to Denmark and Sweden when, during his stay in Copenhagen in the spring of 1837, he developed an interest in Andersen after the writer paid him a call. After their meeting, Marmier immediately wrote an article about Andersen titled "La vie d'un poète" (The Life of a Poet) for the journal Revue de Paris. The article was accompanied by a translation of Andersen's poem "Det døende Barn." This article has endured in France because it was reprinted, in slightly revised form, as the preface to one of the most widely read French editions of Andersen's fairy tales--Contes, translated by D. Soldi. Marmier's essay was also translated into German in 1837 and was used as the basic material for an article about Andersen in the Brockhaus reference work Conversationslexikon der Gegenwart (4 volumes, 1838-1841). By 1838 Marmier's essay had appeared in Russian as well, even though at the time not a single line of Andersen's work was available in that language. The story of Andersen's life spread like lightning throughout Europe, attracting as much attention as his books. Although Germany was from the beginning Andersen's biggest market and "second homeland," a Frenchman created the basis for Andersen's European celebrity.
Kun en Spillemand won Andersen enormous success in Germany (1838) but a sharp rebuke in Denmark. The German translator of the novel, a certain Captain von Jenssen, wanted to introduce the German edition with a lengthy biographical essay about the author, and Andersen obligingly sent him the material for it. The novel is a deeply pessimistic story about a poor but talented violinist named Christian who is destroyed partly by his own weakness and partly because his environment, meaning society, refuses to encourage or support him. Another reason for his downfall is that he psychologically never grows up and becomes a man. On the other hand, his female counterpart and childhood sweetheart, a Jewish girl, Naomi, possesses everything that he lacks--independence, sexual power, and a desire to be free. But she, too, is destroyed, in her case by a vacuous upper-class life. After Christian dies, his meager funeral procession has to move over into the ditch to allow an elegant coach to pass. Inside sits the proud and cold Naomi. In the German edition this profoundly melancholy story was coupled with von Jenssen's optimistic portrait of the author under the motto that genuine talent will always find its way, regardless of any obstacles. This combination made the book a huge success in Germany, where both rich and poor wept over the novel and felt edified by the author's life story.
Viewed from a modern perspective, the novel is interesting for several reasons. It is original in form, since it is structured contrapuntally as it moves back and forth between the parallel lives of Christian and Naomi and between their two worlds--the north of Denmark and the south of France and Austria. It is also one of the few novels before the Modern Breakthrough (meaning before the naturalism and realism of the 1870s and 1880s) to ignore the convention that a novel should present an optimistic outlook on life and a positive ending.
Use of this convention was precisely what infuriated a young Danish author whose first book addressed Andersen's third novel. Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote an eighty-page critique of Kun en Spillemand and published it under the cryptic title Af en endnu Levendes Papirer (From the Papers of One Still Living, 1838). Kierkegaard's concepts were at this stage still heavily influenced by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and at the same time he felt called upon to defend the Goethe-inspired humanistic ideas of "bildung" (education), which were the basis for the Golden Age in Copenhagen. He attacked Andersen for lacking a philosophy of life, for his inability to be objective, and for focusing on the negative, exactly like the "savage" rebellious-critical literature in the rest of contemporary Europe. Kierkegaard's criticism served largely as a bulwark against revolutionary tendencies that might threaten Danish society and its culture. It is basically a political critique disguised as a literary review. Denying the author of Kun en Spillemand any talent as a novelist, Kierkegaard's criticism had a crushing effect on Andersen. Ten years passed after the appearance of Kierkegaard's critique before Andersen published another novel.
All his life, Andersen's economic situation remained highly unstable. In the mid 1830s he was still in debt to Collin, who had lent Andersen money to finance his return from Italy. At the same time Andersen had great trouble paying for the barest necessities. The year 1838 brought stability to his situation and thus marked a turning point in his life. Thanks to an enthusiastic reader of Improvisatoren--Count Conrad Rantzau-Breitenburg, a minister in Frederik VI's cabinet--Andersen received a government grant with a yearly stipend of 400 Rigsdaler. The grant gave him a solid financial basis. Combined with the earnings from his writing, he now had an annual income comparable to 100,000 kroner today. His income grew steadily during the following years. The government stipend was also increased, first in 1845 to 600 Rigsdaler and again in 1860 to 1,000 Rigsdaler. In those days support for an artist was not a social disbursement but rather a form of acknowledgment that increased in size as the artist's fame (and income) grew.
The two volumes of Eventyr, fortalte for Børn were followed by new books with the same title in 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1841. A yearlong trip abroad in 1840-1841 was partially responsible for delaying the final volume. Originally, the fairy tales were only sporadically reviewed and received mostly negative critiques. The criticism was based on the attitude expressed by writer and professor of philosophy Poul Martin Møller, who was also Kierkegaard's admired teacher: to fill a child's imagination with fairy tales is harmful to his or her development. Children should instead be brought up on reality. At the same time, Andersen's tales were thought to be immoral. For example, the dog in "Fyrtøiet" brings the sleeping princess to the soldier's room.
Not even Andersen's colleague Ingemann cared for the fairy tales, although he had written many fairy tales and fantasy stories himself. Yet, in spite of the relatively negative reception, Andersen's fairy tales quickly became popular in Denmark, and the first German translations began appearing in 1839. The first English translations were published in 1846, as well as translations into Dutch. Along with "Fyrtøiet," the fairy-tale collections of the 1830s include stories such as "Den lille Havfrue," "Keiserens nye Klæder" (The Emperor's New Clothes, 1837), "Den standhaftige Tinsoldat" (The Steadfast Tin Soldier, 1838), and "De vilde Svaner" (The Wild Swans, 1838).
From the start, Andersen's deeply original fairy-tale style was fully developed. While the Grimm brothers refined and polished the folktales they had collected to achieve a normalized prose style without any particularly significant characteristics, Andersen took the opposite tack. He created a style and narrative voice that largely stayed close to colloquial speech and thus held a lively appeal for children, whom he had originally targeted as his audience. If one regards Andersen as a children's author (though he was never exclusively writing for children, even in his fairy tales), then his groundbreaking contribution is that he neither addresses children as adults nor talks down to them, as was the custom in literature at the time. On principle, he chose his perspective from below, from the children's level, and thereby seemed to show a solidarity with his audience. For this reason, the language of his fairy tales is not an academically correct prose, full of abstract words and hypotactic sentence structure.
At the time, critics in Denmark, both those who addressed him in private and those who wrote publicly, failed to see the originality of Andersen's language. Instead, they reproached him for not being able to write "proper Danish." They attributed his inability to his having so much faith in his own talent that he did not wish to submit to any kind of serious studies or to learn from the great classical authors. The critics were not prepared to accept or recognize that Andersen was a modern writer who had created a prose based on the premises of a new era. Even his old friend Edvard Collin, who assisted him by copying out and proofing his manuscripts, repeated the criticism in the book he published after the author's death, H. C. Andersen og det Collinske Huus (Hans Christian Andersen and the Collin Family, 1882). He also stated that Andersen regrettably lacked all desire or ability to submit to any kind of rigorous course of study.
Although the fairy-tale collections up until 1841 bore the subtitle "fortalte for Børn," certain dualities typical of Andersen were present from the beginning--for example, his ability to tell a story that would appeal to adults and children alike. He accomplished this goal by several methods. Some of the fairy tales, such as "Den lille Havfrue," have a philosophy embedded in a story that children can easily follow and enjoy--a philosophy that is directed solely at an adult reader who has a literary background. These stories include concepts regarding the relationship between nature and spirit; the fundamental urge in human beings and nature that, according to Platonic tradition, is called eros; religious ideas about the longing of the soul and the path to immortality or God; the dual nature of love, involving a destructive urge and a vanquishing of the self, or agape; an ascent (for example, socially) and the subsequent costs; the relationship between unrequited love and artistic expression (the mermaid, for example, seems to float as she dances, but each step cuts her feet like a knife); a human life that is wasted and the compensation for it in (artistic) immortality; and the transformation of the soul through death and an "intermediate state" after death.
The concurrent appeal to adult readers is also accomplished through the use of irony and humor, and often satire. Andersen achieves this tone by playing with the sound of words and their meanings. His language and narrative style are full of surprises and secondary meanings. He is a conscious linguistic artist. The previously mentioned common perception that "the childish nature" of his style was an expression of a childishness and naiveté in Andersen himself is far from the truth. Both as a human being and as an artist, Andersen had access to the naive and childish side of himself, but the "childish style" is consciously elaborated. This characteristic is evident in his reworking of "Dødningen" (1830) into "Reisekammeraten" (1835) and the comparable (but not nearly as radical) revising of "Lykkens Kalosker" (The Galoshes of Fortune, 1838 and 1850). It is also evident from his revising and rewriting texts over and over until he found just the right expression, just the right form, as, for example, in "Vinden fortæller om Valdemar Daae og hans Døttre" (The Wind Tells of Valdemar Daae and His Daughters, 1859).
Three additional elements characterize Andersen's fairy tales and distinguish them from the stories of the Grimm brothers. First, except for a few stories based on folktales, the tales have a contemporary setting. Most of them do not take place in a particularly fairy-tale-like milieu; nor does the introductory phrase "once upon a time" occur more than a few times in Andersen's stories. His fairy tales are most often set in his own time and in a world quite familiar to his readers, both young and old. In this way, Andersen moved the fairy tale (meaning poetry or the poetic concept that makes the world into a story of universal significance) from a distant and indeterminate past to his own modern times. In "Dryaden" (The Wood Nymph, 1868), a companion piece to "Den lille Havfrue" that appeared thirty years later, Andersen both begins and ends the story with the sentence "Our time, the great, wondrous time of fairy tales." In spite of the influences of Romanticism, Andersen was fundamentally of his time--a "modernist," not a traditionalist.
Second, his fairy tales are often scenically dramatic in form. Andersen's fairy tales have often been adapted to such dramatic formats as cartoons, puppet plays, dramatic performances for adults, ballet, opera, and hybrid productions combining actors and animation. Many of the texts are plays in prose form, as evident in "Det er ganske vist!" (It's Perfectly True, 1852); Andersen's lifelong ties to the theater clearly had a strong influence on the narrative form of his fairy tales.
Third, Andersen's stories typically make inanimate objects come alive--toys such as a spinning top, ball, or tin soldier; or other objects such as a house, a paving tool, rags, or a darning needle. He also anthropomorphizes animals, birds, insects, flowers, trees, and other natural phenomena such as the wind. In this sense Andersen's tales are related to fables, although they do not include the same one-dimensional reference to the human world, nor do they generally possess the clear and instructive moral of fables. Instead, Andersen paints miniature pictures of life: humoresques, satires, and social and psychological snapshots.
Even during the first period of Andersen's fairy-tale production (up until 1841), the tales evince a conscious urge to experiment with form. Hence, Andersen published in 1839 (although the book lists the date as 1840) a collection of interconnected prose sketches or arabesques under the title Billedbog uden Billeder (1839; translated as A Picture-Book Without Pictures , 1847). Originally, the collection comprised twenty sketches (labeled "evenings"), but the number was increased in later editions to a total of thirty-three. The fictional framework is the notion that the moon appears every evening to recount what it has seen to a poor young painter who lives in a garret room--to narrate or rather show visually. The result is a series of brief sketches that are often blatantly lyrical prose pieces from all over the world. The title of the book was clearly influenced by Felix Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte (Songs Without Words; completed in 1830), but it also enjoins the reader to perceive the work as a counterpart to A Thousand and One Nights. In this instance, however, the poetic images come from far and wide and are situational sketches. The painterly foundation is completely in keeping with Andersen's aesthetic endeavors in the 1830s, a decade that for him was demarcated by Skyggebilleder af en Reise til Harzen og det sachsiske Schweiz . . . i Sommeren 1831 and Billedbog uden Billeder. The book did not attract much attention in Denmark, and even today it is not especially well known among Danish readers. It is rarely reprinted in Denmark along with the fairy tales, even though the later tales include "stories" that are actually similar in nature to the "evenings" in Billedbog uden Billeder. The reception of the book was quite different abroad, particularly in Germany, where it was popular, appearing in several translations. It was also reprinted many times, and individual "evenings" were published in various journals and magazines.
Andersen soon also had a major new dramatic work accepted by the Royal Theater, the "romantic drama" Mulatten (The Mulatto; first performed and first published, 1840). He received approximately 1,000 Rigsdaler for the work. This sum, combined with the anticipated fee for his next play, Maurerpigen (The Moorish Girl; first performed and first published, 1840), made possible a lengthy journey to the Middle East.
The premiere of Mulatten was scheduled for December 1839, but the performance was canceled. The theater was closed for two months after the death of King Frederik VI. For this reason the debut of the play occurred in February 1840 when it also appeared in print. It was one of Andersen's greatest dramatic successes, staged twenty-one times at the Royal Theater during his lifetime. The greatest Danish actress of the era, Johanne Luise Heiberg, played one of the leading female roles.
Mulatten was also performed at the Royal Theater in Stockholm, at theaters in Malmö and Odense, as well as throughout Denmark by traveling theater companies. Clearly, Johanne Luise Heiberg was not solely responsible for its success, even though Andersen tended to place great weight on her contribution to its favorable reception. He insisted that she also play the leading role in Maurerpigen, but she declined. After a series of setbacks, the tragedy had its premiere in December 1840, but it was a flop. In his memoirs Andersen attributes the failure to his disagreement with Johanne Luise Heiberg. Her husband, Johan Ludvig Heiberg, the professor and writer who had earlier helped Andersen, satirized him in his Nye Digte (New Poems, 1841), which includes the satirical play En Sjæl efter Døden (A Soul after Death), in which hell has a theater where the condemned are tortured by staging daily performances of Andersen's Mulatten and Maurerpigen.
Nevertheless, Mulatten was an indisputable success. The play is also thematically central to Andersen's writing. The plot, based on a French short story that Andersen had read, involves a slave rebellion on Martinique. The topic was particularly relevant in an age when Denmark had its own overseas colonies, including those in the West Indies (the Virgin Islands). Although Denmark had outlawed the slave trade in 1803, slavery continued in the West Indies until l848. That same year slavery was abolished by France; England had banned it in 1834.
Slavery provides a framework for the play, rather than its theme. In Mulatten Andersen discusses a more general, erotic-psychological and social theme, which in many ways is the dramatic counterpart to the novel O.T. It deals with the outsider who has the spiritual qualifications to raise himself up or--in the words of Andersen, and in keeping with the Zeitgeist--spiritual nobility. But he ends up caught between social disparities, between those above and those below, or in this case between the white plantation owners and the black slaves. The mulatto Horatio belongs to neither group--or to both. At the same time Horatio stands at the intersection of spiritual love and dark sexuality, between the world of culture and that of rebellion. The story ends when his beloved (a white woman belonging to the ruling class) buys his freedom at a slave market where he has landed, unjustly, since he is a free man, not a slave. A mixture of jealousy and oppression brought him there, but then he is bought--for marriage.
Andersen was able to venture out on a second lengthy trip abroad, which took him through Germany, France, and Italy, and then via Malta to Greece and Turkey. From there he returned by way of the perilous route up the Danube, journeying through the turbulent Balkans to Vienna, then on to Prague and Germany and back to Denmark. His travels lasted nearly a year and resulted in the great, colorful travel book En Digters Bazar (1842; translated as A Poet's Bazaar , 1846).
This travel book includes several purely poetic pieces. Among the better-known chapters of the book are the introductory description of a concert by Franz Liszt in Hamburg and the chapter "Jernbanen" (The Railroad), which testifies to Andersen's fascination with the modern wonders of technology. On this journey Andersen had his first experience traveling by train, on the stretch between Magdeburg and Leipzig, a distance of 110 kilometers. The trip lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 10:30 A.M., so the speed was obviously slow by modern standards, but for Andersen the experience was a mixture of Mephistophelian sorcery and divine revelation--human triumph over nature. Andersen returned to this theme again and again for the rest of his writing career, in keeping with the growing mechanization of transportation and communication, with urbanization, and with the progress of the exact sciences, especially the natural sciences. The theme allowed both praise of progress and, more subtly, a worry about it.
The failure of Maurerpigen brought Andersen financial difficulties, since the anticipated fee was supposed to help pay for his lengthy trip to the East. Instead, he had to seek support from the king (once again from the ad usus publicos fund); he did receive a grant, although it was not as large as he had hoped.
For Andersen this trip was also a means of placing himself in the "proper" circles, which meant among artists and intellectuals. He made the acquaintance of painters, writers, composers, and publishers. His later friendship with Mendelssohn in Leipzig was particularly propitious. Andersen had heard Liszt play at a concert in Hamburg, and after his return home Andersen heard Liszt again in Copenhagen and met with him in person. Their friendship, which deepened over the succeeding years during Andersen's travels in Germany, came to mean a great deal for the author's musical experience. Liszt sparked Andersen's interest in Richard Wagner, whom Andersen later visited in Switzerland in 1855. Wagner's music, in turn, played an important role in Andersen's last novel, Lykke-Peer (Lucky Peer, 1870; translated, 1871).
In 1839 Andersen's fairy tales began appearing in German translations, and their popularity among readers was quickly assured. Throughout the 1840s Andersen's reputation in Europe grew rapidly. By 1843, when he made another European trip that took him to Germany, Belgium, and France, Andersen was able to enjoy the laurels of his celebrity. He also consorted on equal footing with such men as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas père, Alphonse de Lamartine, Heine (exiled by then), and sculptor Pierre-Jean David in Paris.
The year was a landmark in Andersen's life for another reason. After returning home from his travels, he heard Jenny Lind (then only twenty-three years old) sing in Copenhagen. She soon delighted audiences in the great opera houses of Europe and became known as the "Swedish Nightingale." Andersen spent a good deal of time with her in private and fell madly in love. In contrast to other, brief, and equally hopeless infatuations after Riborg, Andersen's enchantment with Lind lasted many years. Even in his later years he kept a bust of her next to one of himself in his apartment in the Nyhavn district of Copenhagen. He states in his autobiography that Lind was a major reason behind his ability to lift himself out of the recurrent desperation that can be traced in his letters throughout the 1830s and into the early 1840s. For him she was the incarnation of the union of art and religiosity; at the same time, she represented a counterpart to Andersen in the uniting of humble origins and great success.
Ever since the publication of Hans Brix's dissertation H. C. Andersens og hans Eventyr (The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, 1907), "Nattergalen" has commonly been accepted as Andersen's declaration of love to Lind. Brix does not, however, provide any proof for this theory, which is based solely on Lind's being known as the "Swedish Nightingale." Yet, this nickname is not mentioned in a review of her performance at the Royal Theater nor in the poems of homage that appeared in the newspaper Fædrelandet in September 1843. Presumably, she did not acquire this sobriquet until later, after her breakthrough on the German opera stages. The biographical interpretation of "Nattergalen" as Andersen's declaration of love, therefore, is uncertain.
Six months after Lind's departure, Andersen developed a highly secret but deeply emotional attachment to the young baron Henrik Stampe from Nysø manor, one of the estates where Andersen was often invited as a guest. Similar intense relationships with young men often occurred in Andersen's life at the same time as or alternating with his infatuations with women.
In 1901 Albert Hansen, a Danish critic, published the article "H. C. Andersen--Beweis seiner Homosexualität" (Hans Christian Andersen--Proof of His Homosexuality) in the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen in Berlin. Since then, claims have frequently been made that Andersen was homosexual, especially among German scholars of Andersen's work. The latest contribution in Germany is Heinrich Detering's Das offene Geheimnis (The Open Secret, 1994). This hypothesis has led to interpretations of many of his tales, such as "Den lille Havfrue," as covert accounts of this type of forbidden love. In Denmark this view has not won much sympathy. Two Andersen biographies in English, however, make homosexuality a central thread in Andersen's personal history. They are Alison Prince's Hans Christian Andersen: The Fan Dancer (1998) and Jackie Wullschlager's Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller (2000).
Edvard Collin's H. C. Andersen og det Collinske Huus, which is highly critical of Andersen, does not include any hint that Andersen was gay. Collin mentions with a certain satisfaction that he was familiar with some of Andersen's love affairs (understood to be with women) and was quite pleased with that side of the author's life. The critic Georg Brandes and his younger brother, Edvard, who both knew Andersen, held widely different views of the writer. In an article from 1900, Georg Brandes said that Andersen was not a man--but what this assessment implies remains unclear. Edvard wrote an article about Andersen in 1930 and stated emphatically that Andersen was indeed "a man."
Andersen's letters, diaries, and almanac notes provide evidence that he had strong emotional friendships with men and used language to discuss these feelings that other men would reserve for their relationships with women. The evidence is equally compelling that he was in love with women and felt sexually attracted to--and threatened by--certain types of women.
During the 1840s, Andersen's career was soaring. His fairy tales were a grand success in Germany, while his early novels and En Digters Bazar were published in English, including American pirated editions. The fairy tales appeared in Dutch and English, beginning in 1846, with several different English translations. The first illustrated fairy-tale editions were published the same year in German, with illustrations by Otto Speckter, and in English, with illustrations by Count Pocci. Andersen's new fairy-tale books published in Denmark during the 1840s no longer included the subtitle "fortalte for Børn." This omission indicates that Andersen was now much more self-aware as a writer of tales, that he was also writing for adult readers, and that he had attained full artistic mastery of the style and narrative form that were all his own. This decade also marked the publication of key, poetically important texts, such as the--in a Kierkegaardian sense--almost existentialist story "Grantræet" (The Fir Tree); the religious story "Sneedronningen"; the tale about art and nature, "Nattergalen"; the mythologizing, autobiographical story "Den grimme Ælling" (The Ugly Duckling, collected in Nye Eventyr, 1843); the Romantic nature text "Klokken" (The Bell); and its desperate counterpart "Skyggen."
In 1844 Andersen was a guest of the Danish royal couple on the North Sea island of Föhr (at the time, a Danish possession, although it became German after 1864). There Christian VIII honored him by celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Andersen's arrival in Copenhagen in 1819. This celebration occurred in September, but earlier in the summer Andersen was in Weimar, where he was received at the court of the grand duke and became fast friends with Carl Alexander, the young heir to the duchy. Carl Alexander had grand plans for including Andersen in the circle of artists with whom he was associated in Weimar. Carl Alexander's intention was to make Andersen for Weimar of the 1840s what Goethe had been for his grandfather's time, the poet king, although Andersen had no desire to move to little Weimar. The friendship between Andersen and Carl Alexander lasted until the Three-Year War of 1848-1850, a conflict over continued possession of Slesvig-Holsten by Denmark. The friendship was renewed later on, although it was more moderate in tone.
For Andersen, the highlight of the decade occurred in 1847. In Leipzig, Carl B. Lorck began publishing Andersen's collected works. (A comparable Danish edition did not begin appearing until six years later.) For this German edition, Andersen had signed a contract to deliver an autobiography (Das Märchen meines Lebens ohne Dichtung, 1847), which would comprise the first two volumes. He wrote the autobiography during a European trip that lasted almost a year, although he did not have his diaries at hand to support his memory. He sent the manuscript back in sections to Edvard Collin, who made a clean copy and then sent it to be translated and printed in Leipzig. This method of operation meant that Andersen did not read through the entire text before it was published. Even so, it is an exceedingly well-composed autobiography. The theme is Andersen's laborious but triumphant rise to the zenith of his career, which coincides geographically with the mountains at Vernet, where Andersen stands peering into the land of the future as he sets down the final period. A secondary theme in the middle of this narrative about development and ascent is the human cost, which is formulated as "Sorgen rider med paa Rytterens hest" (the sorrow that shares the horseman's saddle). The triumphant ending in which he, like Moses, beholds the promised land also includes the shadow of an uncertain future.
When the English edition of his autobiography appeared in 1847, Andersen made his first trip to England; he made his second visit in 1857. In London he spent time with Lind, with the heir to the duchy of Weimar, and with his old friend Ludwig Spohr, a German composer. Andersen devoted much time to his publishers and translators, and they reciprocated. He had his portrait painted, and he was feted as the great literary man of the season. He was the celebrated focus of the upper echelons of society. During his stay, Andersen made the acquaintance of Charles Dickens, with whose work he felt a particular kinship. Both authors had written about childhood and the life of children, and both had shown their readers the circumstances of the poor. Andersen's travels also took him to Scotland, which ever since his youth had held a special attraction for him because of his fascination with Scott and his own operatic works that were inspired by Scott's novels. In Scotland, Andersen was delighted to find himself recognized by citizens who had seen his portrait in the newspaper.
During the 1840s Andersen began thinking about writing another novel. In 1843 he conceived of an idea for a book, and his visit to Föhr in 1844 gave his imagination further impetus. But the new novel was not published until 1848--first in English, as The Two Baronesses (because of royalty considerations), and then in Danish, as De to Baronesser. The only Danish novel from the time that has a female protagonist, it is further distinguished from the contemporary novel genre by its not focusing exclusively on the development and fate of one individual. On the contrary, the story broadens the perspective in space (from Copenhagen in the east across Fyn to the islands of Halligerne in the west) and time (from the emancipation of the peasants in the 1780s up to the present--that is, the early 1840s). The novel is a broad depiction of fates in a society undergoing change. The intent of the book is to find some "meaning," a "red thread" in the midst of a world of chance, in which the "higher justice" consists of allowing nature to take its rightful place in society. Andersen's utopia in this novel concerns an organic interdependence that crosses all class boundaries--a perpetual interchange and mobility.
The book appeared in the year Christian VIII died, and a new era, as well as a new type of society, was heralded. Absolute rule was abolished, and Denmark adopted a constitution on 5 June 1849. Signs of this departure from an old way of life and the advent of a new era were visible everywhere during the following years. By 1843 the Østersø-Jernbane (Baltic Railway) of Christian VIII was opened between Altona and Kiel, and in 1847 railroad connections between Copenhagen and Roskilde were instituted. Andersen greatly admired this modernization of transportation. Sailing ships were replaced by steamships, and the telegraph connected the new world with the old. A telegraph line from Helsingør to Hamburg, via Copenhagen, was opened in 1854.
The theater world was also touched by the new times. Christian VIII had given permission to Georg Carstensen, the founder of Tivoli, to erect the Casino building as a wintertime amusement park on Amaliegade. This venture went bankrupt, and the Casino became instead the site for a theater, which marked the first incursion into the monopoly held by the Royal Theater in Copenhagen. The Casino theater opened in 1848 as the first private theater in the city. At New Year's the theater performed Andersen's vaudeville En Comedie i det Grønne (A Comedy in the Open, 1840), which was staged twenty-seven times during Andersen's life. In 1849 Casino showcased works by Andersen that included the vaudeville En Nat i Roeskilde (A Night in Roskilde), a merry play that had forty-six performances. October 3 of the same year marked the debut of Andersen's reworking of Der Diamant des Geisterkönigs (The Diamond of the Spirit King, 1824) by Austrian writer Ferdinand Raimund, which in the Danish version was called Meer end Perler og Guld (More than Pearls and Gold). The "Wiener-Posse" became a "Fairy Tale-Comedy," as Andersen called it. It was a great success and ran until 1888, with 162 performances. Andersen followed it in 1850 with the romantic comedy Ole Lukøie (The Sandman) and in 1851 with the "fantasy drama" Hyldemoer (The Elder Tree Mother), all well-known titles from Andersen's fairy tales, although they had no connection to each other. These and many other plays made Andersen the "house playwright" at the Casino theater, which was disparaged by other writers of the day. Andersen also acted as a consultant for the theater and was a member of its board.
The Three-Year War brought changes to Andersen's life as well. For him, as for other Danes with close ties to Germany, this war with Prussia and its allies among the other German states (including the duchy of Weimar) prompted a cooling of relations; for Andersen this meant in particular his connections with Weimar. A European at heart, Andersen was pressured by his fellow Danes to demonstrate his patriotism during the war. He did so in a series of poems; the best-known is the one that is often considered Denmark's "alternative" national song: "I Danmark er jeg født" (In Denmark I was Born). The poem was printed in the collection Fædrelandske Vers og Sange under Krigen (Patriotic Verse and Songs During War, 1851), published by Andersen for the benefit of the wounded and the survivors of war victims.
Because of the war, he could not travel in Europe as he usually did. Instead, he undertook a lengthy trip around Sweden, including the Dalar districts north of Uppsala. This journey resulted in a charming, lyrical book called I Sverrig (1851; translated as Pictures of Sweden , 1851). It is much more than a travel book, since everywhere the author is seeking poetry in reality, even when he encounters modern industrial reality. The book features two chapters that are programmatic in character. The first is the chapter titled "Tro og Virkelighed" (Faith and Reality), with the subtitle "Prædiken i Naturen" (Sermon in Nature), in which Andersen maintains that faith and the natural sciences have one and the same goal--divine truth. The second programmatic chapter is "Poesiens Californien" (The California of Poetry), in which he prophetically points to the poetry of a new era that will turn away from the Romantic devotion to the past and instead seek poetry in the micro- and macrocosm of natural science, what Andersen calls "the infinitely small and the infinitely vast"--a definition that word by word recurs approximately twenty years later in Georg Brandes's principles for a new realism.
Andersen had appropriated these ideas from others, particularly from Ørsted, his mentor of many years and by now a close friend. (Ørsted had discovered electromagnetism and was the founder of what is today known as Danmarks Tekniske Universitet [Technical University of Denmark] in Copenhagen.) Ørsted's work of natural philosophy Aanden i Naturen (The Spiritual in Nature) was published in 1850, although it consisted primarily of articles that had appeared earlier. Andersen was familiar with the contents from conversations with Ørsted long before the publication of his Sweden book.
Ørsted died in 1851, and Oehlenschläger, who was Andersen's other great model, had died the year before. Thus, in every sense Andersen had entered a new world in the 1850s. In spite of his longtime royalist leanings and his many visits to Danish manors, Andersen was politically liberal-minded and had cultivated a friendship with student leader Lehmann. In 1848 Lehmann gave his great politically incendiary speeches at the Casino, demanding a constitution. But Andersen, like the majority of Danish writers, did not want to get involved in the growing political disputes during the 1840s. After 1848 he turned his back on the struggles for democracy and declared himself above politics. In several texts from this time period, including the story "Alt paa sin rette Plads!" (Everything in Its Proper Place! 1852), Andersen lashes out at the nouveau riche, the middle class, and the power-hungry peasants.
Andersen loved technology, the natural sciences, and progress, and yet he did not clearly foresee the consequences of these things that he so enthusiastically hailed. He did not anticipate that in terms of a philosophy of life they would be accompanied by a rising materialism and secularism. Worried by this development, Andersen attended the lectures of Professor Eschricht at the university in 1855 and there found material for a major polemical novel titled "At være eller ikke være" (1857; translated as To Be or Not to Be? 1857). In this book he tries to reconcile the realities of modern life with a belief in immortality. The story takes place before and during the Three-Year War and thus uses a time of crisis--in both a philosophical and a nationalistic sense--for its departure point. The emergent industrialism is also evident as a framework, with a side glance at the completely new industrial town of Silkeborg and its paper factory, which Andersen had visited several times. The novel has often been misinterpreted as an attempt to argue in support of religion. On the contrary, the novel acknowledges that the external authority, which had guaranteed a life after death, is powerless. In contrast, Andersen points to a rejuvenation of inner faith in human beings.
The new era prompted Andersen to experiment with new forms of short prose and also to choose a new genre label. In the fall of 1849 a new collection of his tales was published, illustrated by an amateur artist, Vilhelm Pedersen. Published in five volumes from August to December 1849, it was the first illustrated book edition in Denmark. Pedersen's illustrations originally appeared in a German edition, Gesammelte Märchen. Mit 112 Illustrationen nach Originalzeichnungen von V. Pedersen. Im Holz geschnitten von Ed. Kretzschmar (1848). This edition marks the end of another epoch in Andersen's fairy-tale production. Pedersen's simple, quiet drawings, done in a typical Biedermeier style, are viewed today as classic Andersen illustrations, along with the more artistic illustrations of his successor, Lorenz Frølich. But Pedersen's drawings, in particular, contributed to making Andersen seem more harmless than he actually is.
From 1852 until 1855 Andersen published a series of books that no longer bore the label "fairy tales" but were then called "Historier" (Stories). Andersen clearly felt the need to indicate a break with the fairy-tale genre, which was tinged with Romanticism. At the same time he wanted to indicate a shift toward greater realism, in keeping with the developments of the day. Finally, he wanted to create a framework within which everything was possible, from the traditional story to regular fairy tales and hybrid forms in between to pure experiments in style and genre, moving toward musical-lyrical texts, rhapsodic hymns, monologues, and satirical sketches. After 1855 and up until the last submission in 1872, Andersen combined the two-time-honored labels and called his books "Nye Eventyr og Historier" (New Fairy Tales and Stories). This title gave him all the freedom he desired, without compromising his international reputation.
The genre was not the only thing undergoing transformation during this period. Andersen's language also changes in "Historier" and "Eventyr og Historier." The simple, "childish," and idiomatic style was replaced by a form of expression that was often more abstract, an abrupt style that seldom had patience for the calm progression of the narrative but was instead a leaping, virtuoso form of writing. Andersen in many ways far surpassed the literature of his day with a series of more-experimental texts, such as "Hjertesorg" (Heartbreak, 1852), "Det nye Aarhundredes Musa" (Muse of the New Century, 1861), "Bispen paa Børglum og hans Frænde" (The Bishop of Børglum and His Kinsman, 1865), "Loppen og Professoren" (The Flea and the Professor, first published in Folkekalender for Danmark, 22 ) and "Tante Tandpine" (Auntie Toothache, 1872). He moved into forms that are precursors to the modernism that characterized the twentieth century.
While Andersen found room to experiment in his short prose pieces, he simultaneously continued writing other works along more-traditional lines, especially his work for the theater. Of particular note during these years were his librettos. As early as 1830 Andersen began collaborating with Danish composers to deliver musical pieces and operas to the Royal Theater. For many years he worked on an opera libretto, Liden Kirsten (Little Kirsten, 1846), based on material from folk ballads. He persuaded his good friend Hartmann, a major figure in Danish Romantic music, to set the text to music. The first performance was at the Royal Theater in 1846. It was a tremendous success and was performed sixty-five times during Andersen's life. It was also considered the Danish national opera until Carl Nielsen composed his Maskarade (Masquerade, 1906), based on a comedy by Holberg. Ten years later Andersen asked his friend Liszt to bring his opera to the theater in Weimar, under the title Klein Karin. Andersen also worked with Hartmann on another opera, Ravnen, which Schumann praised highly in 1840 in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, lauding Andersen's libretto as well. Yet, the opera was never successfully staged. Hartmann and Andersen decided to rework Ravnen in 1865, but the two versions of the opera were performed a total of only ten times during Andersen's life.
As a poet Andersen was tremendously productive in the 1830s, and he won much acclaim. Many of his poems are still well known today, largely because they were set to music and are sung in schools and at all kinds of occasions. In Denmark they are as well known as the most popular of his fairy tales. But after this initial lyrical outpouring, Andersen's poetic vitality diminished noticeably in a sea of lesser verses written for specific occasions. Yet, in his old age, Andersen surprised his readers with a series of colorful and intense poems on the subjects of eroticism and death as well as ironic meditations--in quite modern fashion--on the feeble flame of poetry, the glow of cigarettes, and the futile flare of passion. These poems are included in his great travel book I Spanien (1863; translated as In Spain, 1864). Andersen had long yearned to see Spain, which at the time was little known to Danish travelers. Not until June 1862, however, could he make the trip, a journey that lasted eight months.
On his travels abroad during this period Andersen often took with him young men of the Collin family, paying their way. Edvard Collin's son, Jonas Collin Jr., went along this time. The trip cost Andersen a fortune, but it was one of the ways in which he could repay his old debts to the family who had taken him in when he was a youngster.
Andersen's last travel book, Et Besøg i Portugal (1868; translated as A Visit to Portugal 1866, 1972), which was based on his travels two years earlier, also includes poems, although the lyrical, painterly prose makes a stronger impression. Andersen's last novel appeared in 1870. It was called Lykke-Peer , a title later used by realistic Danish novelist Henrik Pontoppidan for his great bildungsroman (1898-1904). Danish author Herman Bang also alludes to Andersen's last novel in his own naturalistic debut work, Haabløse Slægter (Hopeless Generations, 1880). Lykke-Peer, as a novel about an artist and a semi-fairy tale, is both a summation of Andersen's self-mythologizing and an homage to Oehlenschläger's Romantic masterpiece Aladdin. Andersen's interest in music, particularly opera, plays a central role in this short novel. The protagonist is an impoverished boy who, as an artistic genius specially chosen by fate, pulls himself up to make his breakthrough as a singer and the composer of his own opera, titled Aladdin. He experiences the eternal dilemma that is typical of Andersen: bourgeois and human happiness, meaning happiness in love, must be sacrificed to achieve artistic success. But this happiness is the same as Andersen described in his German autobiography: sorrow is always sitting on the horse behind the rider.
The end of "Lykkens Kalosker" says that perhaps death was the best gift the galoshes brought with them. In "Den standhaftige Tinsoldat" the ballet dancer and the tin soldier are united in the flames of the stove, as a true highlight of their fate. In "Den lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne" (The Little Match Girl, 1845), the final rising up to the light is equated with death in the dark and cold. In "Det gamle Egetræes sidste Drøm" (The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree, 1858) the tree's sudden flood of energy as it rises up toward the sunlight is really death, pulled up by the roots as it is on a stormy Christmas Eve. Death and resurrection are one. In "En Historie fra Klitterne" (A Story from the Dunes, 1859) Jørgen is redeemed at the visionary, illuminated moment of his death, buried in the imaginary flying church nave, where he has sought shelter from the sandstorm.
Andersen's second autobiography, published in German, still included hints of these themes, but not his third. His Danish readers knew primarily this latter work, the one titled Mit Livs Eventyr , which was published in Denmark as part of Andersen's Samlede Skrifter (beginning in 1853). The more widespread second edition of his collected works began appearing immediately after Andersen's death in 1875. Mit Livs Eventyr is a broader and more extensively documented presentation of the German autobiography, but it also has a different purpose. It is not as concerned with depicting Andersen's own development and personality as the two previous autobiographies were. Instead, it is composed as both a defensive text and an attack on the disfavor and persecution that Andersen felt in Denmark during the first decades of his writing career. He makes a special point of describing his travails with the censors at the Royal Theater. Conversely, he also provides ample documentation of the admiration and honors that were heaped on him abroad. In the American "Author's Edition" of his works, published in ten volumes in 1869-1871, Andersen brought his autobiography up to 1867, when he was proclaimed an honorary citizen of Odense, his birthplace.
In the archive-based supplement that he wrote for the American version of his autobiography, Andersen mentions an honor from the previous ten to fifteen years: He was invited to read some of his fairy tales at meetings of the newly established Workers Union, an association formed on the initiative of local burghers for the purposes of improving the education of workers. Andersen says that he was the first writer to read for this new social class that had arisen with emerging industrialization. Andersen read at the Workers Union twenty times, each time with an audience of between five hundred and one thousand. Many times he did not ask for payment. He also read for groups of seamstresses. At his death the workers formed an honor guard at the Cathedral (where the royal family was also represented) and then accompanied his coffin to the grave site. Andersen had risen from the poorest ranks of a provincial Danish town to the elite cultural scenes in Europe, becoming an international celebrity in his own lifetime. Yet, he has often been criticized for being snobbish, vain, and a traitor to his class. More accurately, in his later years Andersen tried to realize the ideal he had promoted in his novel De to Baronesser--that the top and bottom should be united, since the blood that now flows in the head once flowed in the heel.
Even though the homage and favors from above often went to his head, Andersen never forgot what he saw on his way up. He always had a sharp eye for hypocrisy and inhumanity, wherever he encountered it. His experiences were incorporated into what he wrote, both as a source of inspiration and as something that remained traumatically suppressed. The great breadth of his social experiences and the subsequent breaches in his identity and emotional life created his tremendous sense of humor, his sharp irony, and his enormous capacity for empathy.
Hans Christian Andersen died on 4 August 1875 at the summer residence of the wealthy Jewish Melchior family. The estate, known as Rolighed (Tranquility), was located in Østerbro (today part of Copenhagen, although then the estate lay outside the city). For many years Andersen had been a permanent guest of the Melchiors, and during his final difficult illness Dorothea Melchior tended him. She also wrote down his last diary entries, which he dictated to her. The cause of death was determined to be liver cancer. Andersen was buried in the Collin family plot at Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen. Several years after Andersen's death, a public debate arose about the way in which the Collin family had treated the author. Consequently, a descendant of the Collins had the family grave marker moved so that today only Andersen's headstone stands at the site.
From: Mylius, Johan de, and Tiina Nunnally. "Hans Christian Andersen." Danish Writers from the Reformation to Decadence, 1550-1900, edited by Marianne Stecher-Hansen, Gale, 2004. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 300.