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- The True Story of My Life - 20/31 -
of her promise. She kept her word: both boys were received into her house, were educated by her, and are now in the Conservatorium; the youngest of them played before me, and I saw that his countenance was happy and joyful. The same thing perhaps might have happened; the same excellent lady might have befriended these children without my book having been written: but notwithstanding this, my book is now connected with this as a link in the chain.
On my return home from Paris, I went along the Rhine; I knew that the poet Frieligrath, to whom the King of Prussia had given a pension, was residing in one of the Rhine towns. The picturesque character of his poems had delighted me extremely, and I wished to talk with him. I stopped at several towns on the Rhine, and inquired after him. In St. Goar, I was shown the house in which he lived. I found him sitting at his writing table, and he appeared annoyed at being disturbed by a stranger. I did not mention my name; but merely said that I could not pass St. Goar without paying my respects to the poet Frieligrath.
"That is very kind of you," said he, in a very cold tone; and then asked who I was.
"We have both of us one and the same friend, Chamisso!" replied I, and at these words he leapt up exultantly.
"You are then Andersen!" he exclaimed; threw his arms around my neck, and his honest eyes beamed with joy.
"Now you will stop several days here," said he. I told him that I could only stay a couple of hours, because I was travelling with some of my countrymen who were waiting for me.
"You have a great many friends in little St. Goar," said he; "it is but a short time since I read aloud your novel of O. T. to a large circle; one of these friends I must, at all events, fetch here, and you must also see my wife. Yes, indeed, you do not know that you had something to do in our being married."
He then related to me how my novel, Only a Fiddler, had caused them to exchange letters, and then led to their acquaintance, which acquaintance had ended in their being a married couple. He called her, mentioned to her my name, and I was regarded as an old friend. Such moments as these are a blessing; a mercy of God, a happiness--and how many such, how various, have I not enjoyed!
I relate all these, to me, joyful occurrences; they are facts in my life: I relate them, as I formerly have related that which was miserable, humiliating, and depressing; and if I have done so, in the spirit which operated in my soul, it will not be called pride or vanity;--neither of them would assuredly be the proper name for it. But people may perhaps ask at home, Has Andersen then never been attacked in foreign countries? I must reply,--no!
No regular attack has been made upon me, at least they have never at home called my attention to any such, and therefore there certainly cannot have been anything of the kind;--with the exception of one which made its appearance in Germany, but which originated in Denmark, at the very moment when I was in Paris.
A certain Mr. Boas made a journey at that time through Scandinavia, and wrote a book on the subject. In this he gave a sort of survey of Danish literature, which he also published in the journal called Die Grenzboten; in this I was very severely handled as a man and as a poet. Several other Danish poets also, as for instance, Christian Winter, have an equally great right to complain. Mr. Boas had drawn his information out of the miserable gossip of every-day life; his work excited attention in Copenhagen, and nobody there would allow themselves to be considered as his informants; nay even Holst the poet, who, as may be seen from the work, travelled with him through Sweden, and had received him at his house in Copenhagen, on this occasion published, in one of the most widely circulated of our papers, a declaration that he was in no way connected with Mr. Boas.
Mr. Boas had in Copenhagen attached himself to a particular clique consisting of a few young men; he had heard them full of lively spirits, talking during the day, of the Danish poets and their writings; he had then gone home, written down what he had heard and afterwards published it in his work. This was, to use the mildest term, inconsiderate. That my Improvisatore and Only a Fiddler did not please him, is a matter of taste, and to that I must submit myself. But when he, before the whole of Germany, where probably people will presume that what he has written is true, if he declare it to be, as is the case, the universal judgment against me in my native land; when he, I say, declared me before the whole of Germany, to be the most haughty of men, he inflicts upon me a deeper wound than he perhaps imagined. He conveyed the voice of a party, formerly hostile to me, into foreign countries. Nor is he true even in that which he represents; he gives circumstances as facts, which never took place.
In Denmark what he has written could not injure me, and many have declared themselves afraid of coming into contact with any one, who printed everything which he heard. His book was read in Germany, the public of which is now also mine; and I believe, therefore, that I may here say how faulty is his view of Danish literature and Danish poets; in what manner his book was received in my native land and that people there know in what way it was put together. But after I have expressed myself thus on this subject I will gladly offer Mr. Boas my hand; and if, in his next visit to Denmark, no other poet will receive him, I will do my utmost for him; I know that he will not be able to judge me more severely when we know each other, than when we knew each other not. His judgment would also have been quite of another character had he come to Denmark but one year later; things changed very much in a year's time. Then the tide had turned in my favor; I then had published my new children's stories, of which from that moment to the present there prevailed, through the whole of my native land, but one unchanging honorable opinion. When the edition of my collection of stories came out at Christmas 1843, the reaction began; acknowledgment of my merits were made, and favor shown me in Denmark, and from that time I have no cause for complaint. I have obtained and I obtain in my own land that which I deserve, nay perhaps, much more.
I will now turn to those little stories which in Denmark have been placed by every one, without any hesitation, higher than anything else I had hitherto written.
In the year 1835, some months after I published the Improvisatore, I brought out my first volume of Stories for Children, [Footnote: I find it very difficult to give a correct translation of the original word. The Danish is _Eventyr_, equivalent to the German _Abentheur_, or adventure; but adventures give in English a very different idea to this class of stories. The German word _M rchen,_ gives the meaning completely, and this we may English by _fairy tale_ or _legend,_ but then neither of these words are fully correct with regard to Andersen's stories. In my translation of his "Eventyr fortalte for Born," I gave as an equivalent title, "Wonderful Stories for Children," and perhaps this near as I could come.--M. H.] which at that time was not so very much thought of. One monthly critical journal even complained that a young author who had just published a work like the Improvisatore, should immediately come out with anything so childish as the tales. I reaped a harvest of blame, precisely where people ought to have acknowledged the advantage of my mind producing something in a new direction. Several of my friends, whose judgment was of value to me, counselled me entirely to abstain from writing tales, as these were a something for which I had no talent. Others were of opinion that I had better, first of all, study the French fairy tale. I would willingly have discontinued writing them, but they forced themselves from me.
In the volume which I first published, I had, like Mus us, but in my own manner, related old stories, which I had heard as a child. The volume concluded with one which was original, and which seemed to have given the greatest pleasure, although it bore a tolerably near affinity to a story of Hoffman's. In my increasing disposition for children's stories, I therefore followed my own impulse, and invented them mostly myself. In the following year a new volume came out, and soon after that a third, in which the longest story, The Little Mermaid, was my own invention. This story, in an especial manner, created an interest which was only increased by the following volumes. One of these came out every Christmas, and before long no Christmas tree could exist without my stones.
Some of our first comic actors made the attempt of relating my little stories from the stage; it was a complete change from the declamatory poetry which had been heard to satiety. The Constant Tin Soldier, therefore, the Swineherd, and the Top and Ball, were told from the Royal stage, and from those of private theatres, and were well received. In order that the reader might be placed in the proper point of view, with regard to the manner in which I told the stories, I had called my first volume Stories told for Children. I had written my narrative down upon paper, exactly in the language, and with the expressions in which I had myself related them, by word of mouth, to the little ones, and I had arrived at the conviction that people of different ages were equally amused with them. The children made themselves merry for the most part over what might be called the actors, older people, on the contrary, were interested in the deeper meaning. The stories furnished reading for children and grown people, and that assuredly is a difficult task for those who will write children's stories. They met with open doors and open hearts in Denmark; everybody read them. I now removed the words "told for children," from my title, and published three volumes of "New Stories," all of which were of my own invention, and which were received in my own country with the greatest favor. I could not wish it greater; I felt a real anxiety in consequence, a fear of not being able to justify afterwards such an honorable award of praise.
A refreshing sunshine streamed into my heart; I felt courage and joy, and was filled, with a living desire of still more and more developing my powers in this direction,--of studying more thoroughly this class of writing, and of observing still more attentively the rich wells of nature out of which I must create it. If attention be paid to the order in which my stories are written, it certainly will be seen that there is in them a gradual progression, a clearer working out of the idea, a greater discretion in the use of agency, and, if I may so speak, a more healthy tone and a more natural freshness may be perceived.
At this period of my life, I made an acquaintance which was of great moral and intellectual importance to me. I have already spoken of several persons and public characters who have had influence on me as the poet; but none of these have had more, nor in a nobler sense of the word, than the lady to whom I here turn myself; she, through whom I, at the same time, was enabled to forget my own individual self, to feel that which is holy in art, and to become acquainted with the command which God has given to genius.
I now turn back to the year 1840. One day in the hotel in which I lived in Copenhagen, I saw the name of Jenny Lind among those of the strangers from Sweden. I was aware at that time that she was the first singer in Stockholm. I had been that same year, in this neighbor country, and had there met with honor and kindness: I thought, therefore, that it would not be unbecoming in me to pay a visit to the young artist. She was, at this time, entirely unknown out of Sweden, so that I was convinced that, even in Copenhagen, her name was known only
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