Niels Oxenvad's introduction for the book H.C. Andersens brevveksling med familien Melchior, 2006, has been edited for online publication by Lars Bo Jensen on April 7, 2015. The introduction has been published online posthumously, but according to the wish of Niels Oxenvad.
Niels Oxenvad wrote and edited the book about the correspondance between Hans Christan Andersen and the Melchiors during several years at the Hans Christian Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, working closely together with Solveig Brunholm, who was — and still is — working on the “brevbase”, the comprehensive online database of Hans Christian Andersen letters (the website is in Danish, but we have 386 English letters (on April 7, 2015)). The cooperation combined competences and resources from the university, the museum and several collections, above all those at The Royal Library in Copenhagen.
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Towards the end of 1924 the actor and writer Elith Reumert published his book on H.C. Andersen og det Melchiorske Hjem (Hans Christian Andersen and the Melchior family). Perhaps the book was meant as a contribution to the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Andersen's death, in 1925. Considering that Andersen died as a guest of the Melchiors at their country villa Rolighed (i.e. tranquility), a book about his friendship with this family would certainly not be amiss. However, the motif was probably just as much the wish to contrast the friendship of Andersen and the Melchior family with that of his relationship to the Collin family — and to place Reumert's book as a counterpart to Edvard Collin's H.C. Andersen og det Collinske Huus (Hans Christian Andersen and the House of Collin) from 1882. Reumert's book was well received by critics and reviewers, and it even sold so well that a second impression appeared the following year. Since then, in the extensive literature about Andersen, this book has been the work which people used and referred to when referring to this friendship that was so valuable for him, or to the last 10 to 15 years of Andersen's life.
Reumert's narrative primarily rests on two sources, Andersen's diaries and his letters to and from the Melchior family. The text of the book appears as a mosaic of extracts from the diaries and quotations from the letters with linking passages by Reumert. The diaries, of course, have since been issued in their entirety, but as far as the letters are concerned there is only Reumert's selection — and extracts from the selected letters — to refer to. In all justice it must be admitted that Reumert's book was not primarily intended as an edition of the letters and certainly not as what is today understood by a critical, scholarly edition of a source. Another eight years were to pass before such an edition of Andersen letters appeared, when Andersen's letters to his other circle of Jewish friends from his last years, the Henriques family, were issued. Incidentally, this edition was the first of H. Topsøe-Jensen's many Andersen publications.
Reumert was well aware that his Melchior book could only become possible, if the Melchior family, i.e. the surviving children of Moritz G. and Dorothea Melchior, would grant him access to the material kept by the family. Luckily Andersen's diaries from 1863 and onwards had been left to the Melchiors, and as far as we can see, the vast majority of the letters were then still in the possession of the family.
Thanks to a well-preserved correspondence between Elith Reumert and Louise Melchior (which she bequeathed to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum) we can follow Reumert in his work on the book, look over his shoulder, as it were.
Of the children of the Melchior couple the unmarried daughter, Louise Melchior (1849-1934), and Carl H. Melchior (1855-1931), who was married, were still alive in the 1920s, but it appears that Carl Melchior left it to his elder sister to negotiate with Reumert on behalf of them both. The diaries and letters were probably kept in her home, the flat at 21 Højbroplads, where her parents had lived till their death in 1884 and 1885 respectively, and where Louise Melchior remained till her death. It must be emphasized that the family very much supported Reumert in his work, but it was certainly not in order to let the Melchiors appear as Andersen's benefactors by so doing. On the contrary they insisted that the efforts of their parents must not overshadow what Andersen had received from the Collin family for many more years. At this point Reumert was not at all in agreement with the two Melchiors, but he acquiesced, and in a letter dated 13 December 1924 he assured them that “All that might lead to controversies and conflict with the Collin family will be avoided”1, and his book, whose working title had been H. C Andersen og det Melchiorske Hus (Hans Christian Andersen and the House of Melchior) — cf. Edvard Collin's H.C. Andersen og det Collinske Huus (Hans Christian Andersen and the House of Collin) from 1882 — in its final version had the title changed from “Hus” (house) to “Hjem” (home — in the following: “family”).
Today — more than 80 years later — we cannot specify in detail which letters Reumert had at his disposal and which he did not. But at any rate we are concerned with the majority of the letters from Andersen to the Melchior couple and with Dorothea Melchior's letters to him, whereas it would appear that Moritz G. Melchior's letters to Andersen no longer existed. It must be assumed that they had already been destroyed when Melchior received his own letters back, after the estate of Hans Christian Andersen had been wound up. Likewise it must be supposed that Reumert did not have access to the letters which Andersen had exchanged with the eldest daughter, Johanne. She died in 1911, and there is nothing to suggest that Reumert tried to contact her heirs.
Immediately on reception of the many letters Reumert began to copy them, or at any rate those letters he selected for inclusion in his book. Judging by his copies, later acquired by Holger Laage-Petersen, who incorporated them in his Andersen collection (now in the Royal Library, Copenhagen)2, collated with the letters printed in this book, he first made a selection — and thus also a rejection — after which he copied the text of the selected letters. And then he chose to leave out whole passages from the selected and copied letters. The result thereafter was 226 letters, 142 of them from Hans Christian Andersen, the majority to Dorothea Melchior, but also some letters to Moritz G. Melchior and one to the daughter, Louise. But the printing of a letter in toto is a decided exception. There were many abridgements, and Dorothea Melchior's letters suffered most.
Later we will look at Reumert's handling of the correspondence in more detail, but it must be abundantly clear that as an edition of letters his book is far from satisfactory. Only by reissuing the letters — all available letters — will the correspondence with the Melchiors acquire an importance comparable to that of the other collections of Andersen letters already published.
Considering that, as a friend of the Melchior couple, Andersen was included in the large Melchior family with all its ramifications, the editor has found it reasonable not to confine himself to the letters to and from Dorothea Melchior, but to include what has been preserved of letters to and from the rest of the family. “The Melchior family” is here understood as Dorothea and Moritz G. Melchior, their children and grandchildren as well as Moritz G. Melchior's sisters and brothers. It is true that very few of Andersen's letters to “the rest of the family” have been preserved — and almost none from them to him — but as it appears from the catalogue of missing letters (III, p. 292), there must have been quite a number of them.
Hans Christian Andersen's friendship with the Melchior family — and the correspondence which this gave rise to — only arose fairly late in his life. It was not a sudden and passionate thing, but developed slowly and harmoniously from an acquaintance, one among many, to a well established and firm friendship. So close did this friendship become that Andersen came to almost regard himself — and be regarded by the Melchiors — as part of the family.
Andersen and the Melchiors came to know each other in the late 1850s, but 5 to 6 years would pass before the friendship was consolidated. On the other hand this friendship almost came to overshadow all the others for the last 10 years of his life, including the friendship with the Collin family.
In the years around 1860 many of Andersen's friends indeed passed away, one after the other. In 1858 his close friend from his youth, Henriette Wulff, perished tragically in a fire onboard a ship on the Atlantic. In 1861 his fatherly friend and benefactor, the old geheimekonferensråd3 Jonas Collin, died, after which the big family around him in 9 Amaliegade was dispersed. And a few months after the death of Jonas Collin he lost another friend from the old days, the poet B. S. Ingemann. This loss of close friends, combined with the depression that came to plague him after the defeat of Denmark to Germany in 1864, made him gratefully accept the offers of friendship from two closely related Jewish families, Henriques and Melchior.
The families must be mentioned in this order — first Henriques and then Melchior. Martin Ruben Henriques, a stockbroker, and his wife, Therese H., née Abrahamson, were the first to open their door to the poet, who was without a family of his own, and it was in their hospitable home that Andersen met the Melchiors. The consequence was that — while preserving his friendship with the Henriques family — he became even more closely attached to the Melchior family. In his introduction to the edition of Andersen's letters to Therese and Martin R. Henriques
As it appears from the earliest letter of the Melchior correspondence (letter no. 1, Mrs Melchior took the initiative by sending Andersen a pretty little present in recognition of his reading in 1859, an event with seems to have taken place in the home of her brother, Martin R. Henriques, and his wife. And it was also she who renewed the acquaintance a couple of years later by writing to Andersen on her own initiative while he was travelling in Spain, referring to the fact that in a travel note printed in the Danish paper Berlingske Tidende Andersen had regretted that he rarely heard news from home. Mrs Melchior wrote and Andersen answered. This was the way it was in the beginning, soon it would be the other way round. Then it was Andersen who wrote, expecting an answer. And preferably a speedy one!
The entries in the diary and the relatively few letters from the years after the first contact indicate a certain amount of reservation from both sides. In addition there were a number of practical obstacles for both parties to the establishment and consolidation of a new friendship by frequent meetings in Copenhagen.
In 1860 Dorothea Melchior gave birth to her eighth and last child, the daughter Thea, which at the time must have made her less fit to entertain on a large scale and by inviting him draw Andersen into their circle of friends. In the same year, in the summer, Andersen was on an extended journey in Germany and Switzerland, and the following year he again travelled south, this time even to Rome, with longs stays in Switzerland and Germany on the way back. In 1862 the Melchior couple on their side went on a journey via Hamburg to London (to the World Exhibition there), and to the rest of England and Scotland, after which Andersen on 24 July the same year left for Spain, returning to Denmark on 30 March 1863. A little later in the same year the Melchiors, i.e. the couple and their two eldest daughters, Johanne and Louise, started on a journey, which can well be called “the grand tour of the family”. They left in late August 1863 and only returned in mid-May 1864, having visited Germany, Switzerland and Italy, with a detour to Egypt, followed by yet another visit to Italy with a stay of a month's duration in Rome. Thus in those years there were several reasons why the two parties, the poet and the merchants, could not see a lot of each other. Really it was only from 1865 that Andersen became a frequent guest at the Melchiors. In that year — for the first time — he was drawn into their large family by taking part in a large family party on Dorothea Melchior's birthday (16 February), which at the same time was a farewell party for a nephew of the family, who was leaving on a long journey. On this double occasion a series of tableaux vivants over the word FARVEL (goodbye) were arranged, and Andersen contributed with a prologue, which he let Fortuna speak and where the penultimate letter was illustrated by his reading of fairy tales (Danish: Eventyr)6. It is characteristic of the desire of the Melchior family to have Andersen stay with them that in the late summer during their stay at Rolighed, they invited him to visit them there “for some days”. During a later stay there he was even told that “there are two beautiful rooms ready for me from which I will have a view of Malmö”7. Because of Andersen's journey to Sweden in the autumn of that year, however, the visit did not materialize then, but the invitation stood and was later made good. That happened in the following year on Andersen's return from his journey to Portugal.
Towards New Year, 1865-66, it looks as if the Melchior family had definitively “conquered Andersen's standard”, as Paul V. Rubow put it, and it remained with them for the rest of his life. At the end of 1865 Andersen sent the couple his “profound thanks … for your continued goodness, nay, friendship … for me” (letter no. 12, and in her answer Mrs Melchior expressed her appreciation of the “friendship you have shown us by visiting our house”. There would be many more of these reciprocal displays of gratitude in the following years.
Altogether it looks as if it was at this point, towards the middle of the 1860s, that the Melchior family really opened their doors not only to the family, but also to a large circle of friends, with Hans Christian Andersen as the central figure. At any rate it was at this time that the painter Carl Bloch became a frequent guest in the Melchior home, and the same applies to the editor C. Bille and his wife as well as the painter F. C. Lund and his wife. Mrs Melchior apparently had both the inclination, the will and the ability to display a hospitality which was natural to her. And her husband, who by nature was more reserved, loyally backed her up. However, at one time Mrs Melchior had to admit that “our circle of friends is so large that we are almost continuously entertaining visitors, or we have to see our friends and relations in their homes” (letter no. 21. The physical framework, however, was in order, a spacious flat in the middle of town and a large villa outside the city walls, and the wealth of the family enabled them to live in this way.
The author Axelline Lund, wife of the genre, history and portrait painter F. C. Lund, came to know the Melchiors about the same time as Andersen, and as with him this acquaintance developed into a lifelong friendship. In her Spredte Erindringer (scattered recollections) from 1917 she cannot praise the hospitable couple highly enough: To the “noble and good people”, which Mrs Lund has had the delight of knowing in her life, “Etatsraad Melchior and his beautiful, lovable wife, Dorothea, née Henriques, were among the first. Understanding, interest, goodness, compassion combined with wealth made them the centre of the representatives of intelligence and spirit for years, and they created well-being, conviviality, indeed luxury, which almost all artists value. Hans Christian Andersen was not alone in obtaining a home and feeling loved and appreciated, many others also had their share
“Even if their own names will not glitter among the servants of the spirit in the firmament of the future, it must be said with thankful words of praise that they were among the best and noblest people, whose loss will never be forgotten by their contemporaries”8.
We can see that Mrs Lund does not economize with words of praise or superlatives in her description of Mr and Mrs Melchior, written about 30 years after their death. But her statement is confirmed by one of Andersen's contemporaries, the ballet master August Bournonville, who — a bit more soberly — explains what Andersen received from the Melchiors. “As an old bachelor he [Andersen] had to do without the joys and comforts of a family life, but his friends tried to recompense him for this by showing him an exemplary hospitality, both at noble manors and in reputable middle class homes, where he was nursed, admired, even spoilt, as people bore with his oddities, which became more numerous as he was weakened by age; but foremost among these loving friends in the last years of his life were the Melchior family, who surrounded him with sisterly and brotherly care and in whose arms he died”9. Bournonville was a close friend of the Henriques family, in whose home people from the worlds of music and the theatre gathered, and indeed it was in this home that Andersen had made the acquaintance of the Melchiors — as already mentioned.
In 1865 Hans Christian Andersen had turned 60 — without this having occasioned much festivity. Celebrations came later, in 1867, 1869 and 1875. He celebrated his 60th birthday privately with a dinner at the Henriques, where also the Melchiors were present. His new friends, the Melchiors, were considerably younger: in 1865 Moritz G. Melchior was 49 years old and Mrs Dorothea 42. They were surrounded by a family of seven, five daughters and two sons, i.e. the daughters Johanne (b. 1848), and Louise (b. 1849), Harriet (b. 1852) and Anna (b. 1853), followed by the sons Carl (b. 1855) and Emil (b. 1857), and the above-mentioned daughter, Thea, who was born in 1860. The eldest, a son by the name of William (b. 1847), died as early as 1856, i.e. a couple of years before Andersen entered the family.
Considering the fact that this correspondence primarily contains letters from and to Dorothea Melchior, it would be suitable to introduce her before her husband and children.
Dorothea Melchior was born on 16 February 1823 as daughter of the stockbroker Ruben Henriques (1771-1846), whose family were Portuguese Jews. They came from Altona and via Nakskov had come to Copenhagen, where Dorothea's father in 1801 founded the stockbroking firm, R. Henriques Jr., which later became much respected. After the death of the founder it was continued in the next generation by the sons Aron Ruben and Martin Ruben Henriques. All Ruben Henriques' sons bore their fathers first name as a middle name. Altogether Ruben Henriques had 18 children in his two marriages. Dorothea Henriques was no. 15 in this flock, born in her father's second marriage, with Joricha Melchior (1784-1857). Joricha was a sister of Moritz G. Melchior's father, so this couple, who later married, were indeed cousins, which was very common in Jewish families at the time.
Dorothea Melchior grew up in an affluent — and indeed large — family in the heart of old Copenhagen, in the large building 6 Amagertorv, which was erroneously called “Dyveke's House”, although it was not built until about 100 years after the death of this mistress of Christian II.
We really know very little about Dorothea's childhood and early youth. It is known that the home was strictly orthodox. Every Saturday Ruben Henriques and his 10 sons visited the synagogue in Krystalgade. When they were on their way, Copenhageners would say: “There is the King of Jews and all his sons”. In the home all Jewish rules of conduct and eating were strictly observed, however, they did not come to influence the homes later founded by the daughter, Dorothea, and her sisters and brothers.
Dorothea must have been well educated at home, by private teachers. The Jewish girls' school, Carolineskolen, was indeed in existence in her childhood, but it does not look as if she frequented it. It was primarily visited by poor Jewish girls, hardly by girls at the level of the Henriques daughters. As an adult she demonstrated a good knowledge of foreign languages, knowing both German, English and French. She was well read, interested in literature and art — and music. When she was young, she was taught the piano by the pianists and composers Adolph Nathan and Anton Ree, but how much she performed at the piano later on is a moot point. However, she saw to it that all her daughters learnt to play. The two sons, too, were musical and active musicians, Emil as a pianist and Carl as violinist. And as it is abundantly demonstrated in her letters to Hans Christian Andersen, she was a keen member of the Musical Society. She was a large consumer of music and hated to miss any of the concerts in the Society. Also she was a keen and interested theatregoer. She and Andersen had a great common interest in music and the theatre, and so she very naturally gave detailed descriptions of her experiences in the Musical Society, the Royal Theatre and at the Casino Theatre in her letters from Copenhagen to Andersen abroad.
It appears from almost every one of the letters reproduced here that Andersen very much appreciated Dorothea Melchior's fine personality — and her great goodness to himself — so there is no need to repeat it here. And as he thought and felt, so did all others in her large circle of family and friends. It is very difficult to find any negative statements about her. Perhaps there is a slight criticism in what her nephew, Gustav Aron Henriques, chose to write about her in his reminiscences Efteraarsløv (autumn leaves)10: “Aunt Dorthe was sweet and good, very good, also beautiful, but — at her birth the canons were fired. She was very kind to all her guests, whose number was legion, but presents to the young among us were thought to be second hand, and thus for one's confirmation one risked having books which could not be exchanged, because they had been bought ‘at a bazaar’. It looked as if Aunt Dorthe had bought them cheaply at a bazaar ”. According to a family anecdote it was once said about a newly engaged couple, who were dancing and apparently seemed to an onlooker not to go well together at all: “They look just like something Aunt Dorthe might have bought at a bazaar”11. G. A. Henriques was born in 1859 and so was 26 at Dorothea Melchior's death, so he must have known his aunt well. These remarks seem to imply that — in spite of her affluence — Mrs Melchior appeared to the next generation to be somewhat parsimonious. It is difficult now to confirm or deny the truth of this statement, but it is certain that Dorothea Melchior simply had to buy all sorts of things from the bazaars, which she herself organized or had a share in (cf. a remark by Mrs Hall in letter no. 300 with a view to charity. And then it is hard to blame her for subsequently using the acquired objects as gifts to others. On the other hand it is natural for young people to want something entirely different for their bar Mitzvah, something which might perhaps be exchanged!
In 1846, at the age of 22, Dorothea Henriques had married her cousin, Moritz Melchior. It was definitely a love match. As cousins and neighbours on Amagertorv they had known each other from their childhood. Her father died about six months after their marriage, but to begin with the mother managed the firm, assisted by her sons, Aron and Martin. Curiously enough exactly the same thing happened in the Melchior family at about the same time. Moritz's father, Gerson Melchior, died in 1845, after which his widow, Birgitte Melchior, née Israel, took over management of the firm for about 10 years, assisted by her son, Moritz.
The Melchior family had not been associated with Denmark for as long as the Henriques family. Moritz G. Melchior's grandfather, Moses Melchior (1736-1817), was the first Melchior in Denmark. About 1750 he had immigrated from Hamburg as a poor lad, but quickly worked his way up, so that in 1761 he was able to found his own merchant firm, a firm which in 1790, almost by accident, acquired the peculiar name of “Moses & Søn G. Melchior” (Moses & Son G. Melchior), with “Søn” put in front instead of behind.
Incidentally this well-consolidated firm kept its name right to its cessation in 1974. The firm did well during the difficult years of crisis during and after the Napoleonic wars, and under the son, Gerson (1771-1845), it acquired a fine position among the leading commercial houses of the Capital. At the same time trade was supplemented with shipping. All activities — trade and shipping — were particularly aimed at the Danish West Indies, especially the Island of St. Croix, from where among other things large quantities of sugar and rum were imported for consumption in Denmark or export to the Baltic region. The trade with St. Croix was so large that a branch by the name of Melchior & Co., St. Croix, was established with a manager on the spot. In the correspondence several people appear, who took part in the trading and shipping activities with the Danish West Indies. For about 10 years (1853-62) the firm also traded on Australia — as part owner of a firm founded for the purpose, Melchior & Co., and later — in the years about 1870 — the firm took the initiative to establish “Det danske Fiskeriselskab” (the Danish fishing company), which was to hunt whales and seals in the seas east and north of Iceland. However, this initiative was not successful and the activity was discontinued. At a later time, after Andersen's death, the House of Moses & Søn G. Melchior became part owner of the firm Melchior, Armstrong & Dessau in New York, so the firm showed the flag — which was moreover a swallow-tailed flag12 — almost everywhere on the globe13.
Like Dorothea Henriques, Moritz G. Melchior was from a numerous family. In his two marriages Gerson Melchior had a total of 16 children, 4 in the first and 12 in the second. Moritz was number 10 of all these children.
Moritz G. Melchior was privately but well educated as a child by a lawyer by the name of A. K. Bang (1805-97), who ended his career as chief of section in the Ministry of Finance, and justitsråd. Several years later, at Melchior's silver wedding in 1871, he made a speech in honour of his former pupil, and he also contributed to the entertainment at the silver wedding in other ways14. On the same occasion Andersen came to know the former teacher of his host. Like his wife-to-be, young Moritz was taught foreign languages. His accomplished mother, Birgitte Israel, was very well read and took care to instil spiritual interests in her children by taking them, among other things, to H.C. Ørsted's public lectures, which laid the foundation for his great work, “Aanden i Naturen” (the spirit in nature) (1850-51).
Nobody could have predicted that Moritz was to follow his father as leader of the family firm, but two of his elder brothers died early, a third brother chose an academic career and became a doctor, and a fourth brother settled with his own firm in Hamburg, linking it to the parent company in Copenhagen. In the end Moritz had to take over after training as a merchant in the firm, supplemented with positions in Amsterdam and Hamburg. He seems to have been well qualified to take over the firm at his father's death, in the first years together with his mother, later with a younger brother, Moses Melchior, as partner. Most people found that the latter was a better businessman than his big brother, which did not prevent the two brothers from cooperating splendidly. For a few years also the youngest brother, Israel B. Melchior, was part of the managing team, until he established himself with a paper factory in Køge south of Copenhagen in 1874. This brother incidentally also became his son-in-law, as in 1867 he married his niece, Johanne, the eldest daughter of Moritz and Dorothea.
At the death of his mother in 1855 the address of the firm was moved from 11 Amagertorv to 21 Højbroplads, where Moritz and Dorothea Melchior at the same time installed themselves in a splendid flat on the second floor. A couple of years later, in 1858, the villa called Rolighed (tranquillity) in Østerbro, on Gl. Kalkbrænderivej, near the coast of the Sound, was acquired in what was then still decidedly rural surroundings. Here the family lived during the summer, normally from mid-May to late October, and it was especially here that a quite incredible hospitality to friends and relations from far and near was displayed. The original Rolighed (from about 1790) became too small for this hospitality, so in the winter of 1869-70 it was rebuilt and considerably expanded15.
Moritz G. Melchior's position within the commercial life of Copenhagen combined with his sympathetic manner and confidence-inspiring nature were the reason that over the years he was entrusted with several tasks requiring confidence. At an early date he became a member of the committee of the Merchants' Guild, from 1873 to his death in 1884 he was the chairman of this committee. It goes without saying that he was also used within the Jewish community, where for some years he was a member of the board of governors. For many years, 1851-69, he was a member of the Council of Copenhagen, and for a few years, 1866-74, he was also a member of the Upper House, Landstinget, where he joined the National Liberals, who in those years were moving towards a position as a right-wing party, a political development which Moritz G. Melchior was far from approving. He probably did not really like political work, regarding it in all probability as a civic duty. He had limited powers of speech, and in political discussions he did not appear to advantage. As a politician — and as a speaker and debater — he was no match for his close friend, C. St. A. Bille, who was editor of the then leading newspaper of the Capital, Dagbladet, and also a member of the Lower House of Parliament, the Folketinget. Finally it must be mentioned that in 1857 Moritz G. Melchior was a co-founder of Privatbanken, and he was also a member of the boards of several other companies founded by the banker and entrepreneur, C. F. Tietgen. However, it does not appear that he and Tietgen were close16.
Apart from his management of the family firm and responsible positions in public life, he continued a philanthropic activity of considerable size, but very much in secret. Because of his wealth he felt able — and obliged — to help less fortunate countrymen, fellow Jews as well as other Danish citizens, and in many cases he contributed generously to charity. Finally, in his will he left a large amount to a number of institutions and societies17.
To engage in philanthropy was an old tradition in the Melchior family. His mother, Birgitte Melchior, née Israel, had done so18, and a similar activity was performed by his elder sister, Henriette Melchior, who was unmarried. An even greater philanthropist was his younger brother, Moses Melchior, who was a leading light in the Central Committee and the Workers' Building Society, among others, but in contrast to Moritz G. Melchior, Moses declined all honours such as the Knighthood, etc. Moses Melchior in this correspondence appears as that person in the family who more than anybody else tried to do something for Hans Christian Andersen's Funen namesake, a destitute young man by the name of Hans Christian Jørgensen, who had asked for Andersen's assistance19.
However, in spite of all his public activities, Moritz G. Melchior was above all a man whose “home was his castle” and felt best at ease in his home — or rather his two homes — surrounded by the wife he loved, and a numerous family — and then of course a larger or smaller number of relatives and friends, for whom there were always time and space.
For a whole decade Hans Christian Andersen was the foremost friend of the house. Gradually the custom became established that Andersen dined with the Melchiors on Thursdays, which in earlier years had been reserved for old Jonas Collin in his home in Amaliegade. As we know, throughout his Copenhagen life from 1827 and until his death, Andersen divided his week into regular “days”, when his friends expected him, if there was no other agreement. Thursdays became reserved for the Melchiors, and Sundays for Martin and Therese Henriques. Once these days had been established, it became customary also for other friends of the house to appear on the same day, sometimes after an invitation, sometimes without. The day was simply called “the day for friends”. Among the first friends of the family may be mentioned the young painter Carl Bloch, whom the Melchiors had come to know during their stay in Rome in 1864. Carl Bloch also became a close friend of Andersen, and like Mrs Melchior Andersen followed Bloch's artistic work closely. He was present when Carl Bloch's large painting, “Scene fra et romersk osteri” (scene from a Roman osteria) was hung in the largest room of the Højbroplads flat, called “salen” (the salon), and he made a weighty contribution to the discussion when Bloch was painting his historical painting, “Niels Ebbesen og grev Gert” (Niels Ebbesen and Count Gert).
Andersen — historically correctly — pleaded for a naked Count Gert, whereas others in this circle preferred the Count to be depicted in a more decorous manner, wearing a sort of nightshirt. Also after his marriage to the beautiful Alma Trepka, Bloch often visited the Melchiors on Thursdays, if not as often as before. The painter F. C. Lund and his wife, Axelline Lund, also belonged to the circle of friends, and so did the poet and museum inspector, Carl Andersen, who today is perhaps best remembered as Niels W. Gade's favourite libretto writer, the rest of his work having been forgotten. A very close and dear friend was the editor of the newspaper Dagbladet, C. St. A. Bille, who has already been mentioned, and his humorous and energetic wife, Louise Bille. Other representatives of the press were the young journalist and writer, Robert Watt, who was first editor of the weekly Figaro, later of the newspaper Dagens Nyheder, and P. Hansen, who under the pseudonym of Cabiro contributed to Dagbladet and later became a commissioner and a censor at the Royal Theatre. Sometimes the editor of the daily Fædrelandet, Carl Ploug, was also seen in this circle. About 1863 he had bought the big house, 21 Højbroplads, from Moritz G. Melchior and moved into the third floor, above the Melchior family, who remained on the second floor. The composer Niels W. Gade, who was a friend of the Henriques family, sometimes also came to the Melchiors on Thursdays, but more often was seen his young pupil, the Swedish pianist and composer J. A. Hägg, who like Hans Christian Andersen became like a “son of the house” and also stayed at Rolighed for extended periods in 1870-71 and again in 1874.
The Thursday dinners were given around the year, in winter at Højbroplads and in summer at Rolighed. However, in the summer months Andersen's visits to the Melchiors changed their character to a certain extent, as he now also became the house guest of the family. He used to stay at various manor houses in spring and early autumn, in these years at Basnæs or Holsteinborg, sometimes Glorup and Frijsenborg, and his travels abroad also mostly took place in the summer.
Therefore, for many good reasons he had to let down the Melchiors and the Thursdays, but if he was in Copenhagen in the summer he gladly accepted their offer if staying at Rolighed, as occupant of the two rooms on the first floor, which were always at his disposal. He had a sitting room and a bedroom with a view of the Sound towards the Swedish coast.
Thanks to Andersen's meticulous diaries one can calculate the number of days he spent under the roof of this family. It came to a total of 650 days, including 70 days when Andersen stayed in the Højbroplads flat, which the family had vacated in 1870, while they were in Algeria and on their home journey from there. In other words, an average of a little over two months per year.
It may not have been quite easy for the hosts to have Andersen as a guest for such long periods year in and year out. As Bournonville clearly says, Andersen developed oddities, which did not become less as the years went by. And yet it is very clear from the letters from the Melchior family, after a stay at Rolighed had come to an end, how happy they had been to have him as a guest and how they were already looking forward to his next visit. After Andersen for three years had spent long summer periods at Rolighed, Mrs Melchior confesses that “for us it is always regarded as the peak of the summer, the time when we see you in our midst” (letter no. 104, and there is no doubt that she really meant what she said.
Compared to the many and extended stays at Rolighed, his visits to the country home of the Henriques family, Petershøj, were fewer and of shorter duration. Petershøj was a former teacher's home in a former school at Hvidøre, one of the “rytterskoler”.20 Petershøj was situated at the Strandvejen, at the corner of Damsgårdsvej, between Sølyst and Hvidøre. From here there was a magnificent view over the Sound. At Petershøj he stayed for a total of five periods in the years 1869-72, with a total duration of 42 days. There was the same hearty welcome at Petershøj as at Rolighed, Andersen asserted, but it was obvious that at Petershøj he missed his comfortable bed at Rolighed and — one may assume — the higher degree of luxury characteristic of life there.
At Rolighed he lived with the family, day after day and week after week, and the family with him. This closeness inevitably came to give him status as a member of the family. And while he was a guest at Rolighed, the Melchiors received relatives from Hamburg and Altona, from Holland and England and Sweden. Automatically Andersen was thus drawn into an even larger family circle and came to enjoy the closeness which was and presumably still is characteristic of Jewish families. When families were so large as was the case with both the Melchiors and the Henriques, some members of the family were naturally in contact more frequently than others. Both at Rolighed and in Copenhagen Dorothea and Moritz G. Melchior had close contact to his unmarried sister and brother, Henriette and Moses Melchior, who kept house together and in the summer took rooms at a farm, Teglgården, north of the Charlottenlund Woods. Andersen was very fond of Henriette Melchior, “Aunt Jette”, just as he appreciated the brother, “Uncle Mose”. But it clearly appears from the letters — and especially from Andersen's entries in his diary — that it was difficult for him to be natural around Moses Melchior. Andersen's frequently expressed praise of Moses' philanthropy and helpfulness irritated the philanthropic merchant. That kind of thing should not be mentioned, but Andersen almost saw the reserve of Moses as a form of arrogance and standoffishness. Moses Melchior was probably not aware of Andersen's problems in being with him. Otherwise he would hardly have suggested that the two of them should accompany each other to America, Moses Melchior to do business and Andersen to read from his own works. The project remained a proposal. Another member of the Melchior family, whom Andersen liked very much, was Moritz G. Melchior's niece, Sophie Melchior, the daughter of the eye specialist Nathan G. Melchior. She was the only girl in her family, and as she was of the same age as the eldest Melchior daughters, Johanne and Louise, she came to stay at Rolighed every summer, usually at the time when Andersen was also there.
The contact to Therese and Martin R. Henriques at Petershøj was just as lively and steady at Rolighed as it was in winter in Copenhagen. There was also close contact — also from Hans Christian Andersen — with Moritz G. Melchior's sister-in-law, Mrs Emilie Melchior (called Aunt Mille), who must have been a very spirited woman, good at repartee, which also Andersen appreciated. Finally there were the relatives further afield, but still close, who were settled abroad, and whom Andersen as a rule only saw when they, too, stayed at Rolighed during the summer. This is true about Moritz G. Melchior's sister-in-law in Hamburg, another Mrs Emilie Melchior, widow of his brother, Sally Melchior, earlier mentioned, who had settled as independent merchant in Hamburg, with business ties to the House of Melchior in Copenhagen. Andersen liked her very much and immediately felt at ease with her when they met. The sister, Galathea, and her husband, L. N. Marcus, lived in Altona, where the latter, who was a doctor, was very useful to Andersen during his illness in Altona in 1868. Finally must be mentioned Dorothea Melchior's youngest brother, Simon R. Henriques. He was a banker, who lived in Hamburg. Both there, when Andersen passed through Hamburg, and during Simon R. Henriques's visit to Copenhagen, they were in contact. And apart from his problems with tackling Moses Melchior, Andersen's relation with all the numerous relatives of his host was characterized by warmth and cordiality.
The friends from the Thursday dinners of the winter also occasionally appeared at Rolighed, if they themselves were not “staying in the country” elsewhere. And finally it often happened that Andersen, during his stays at Rolighed, was sought out by his friends from abroad, who had not found him in town and knew they would be able to find him at Rolighed. His friend from Le Locle, the clock-and-watch maker Jules Jürgensen, often came to Copenhagen and was invited to dinner at Rolighed as a matter of course. The same applied to the two friends from Holland, the writer J. Kneppelhout and the judge — and translator — C. J. N. Nieuwenhuis, and the friend Carlos O'Neill from Setubal in Portugal, who arrived with his wife and son. Not to mention his German friend, Clara Heinke from Berlin, who came to Copenhagen with her sister and a friend in the summer of 1874, exclusively to visit Hans Christian Andersen, at a time when his state of health was anything but satisfactory21. Here, too, Mrs Melchior and Rolighed had to come to the assistance. And when Edmond Gosse, a young English scholar travelling in Scandinavia, said that he would like to meet the world-famous Danish poet during his stay in Denmark, his Copenhagen host (Dean Fog from the church Holmens Kirke) of course also procured an invitation to Rolighed for him22.
Today it is almost incredible how Dorothea Melchior managed such a household, with a large family and many guests. Moreover guests who, like Andersen, J. A. Hägg and visiting relatives, were houseguests. Other guests appeared — as described above — more or less unexpectedly. It was of course a good thing that the family were well-off and could afford a large establishment23. And Mrs Melchior had the assistance she needed in her kitchen, house and garden. A housekeeper, two or three maids, a footman, a coachman, and a “gårdskarl” (handyman), besides — at Rolighed — one gardener and some occasional assistance to look after the garden — including the large vegetable garden24.
It seems that Hans Christian Andersen was both a difficult and an easy guest. He had his oddities, and as mentioned they neither became fewer, nor smaller, as years went by, but he was not a burden on the family. He was well able to entertain himself, which he was used to when he lived in town.
He went on walking tours in the surrounding country, often into the newly developed residential area, Rosenvænget, where he could visit the Drewsen family, daughter and son-in-law of Jonas Collin. The most famous resident in Rosenvænget, the actress Johanne Luise Heiberg, however, he only visited very rarely when he was staying at Rolighed. Perhaps he knew that in spite of her Jewish mother, Mrs Heiberg strangely enough was a fanatic anti-Semite and so would hardly share Andersen's enthusiasm for his Jewish hosts. Besides he frequently walked into Copenhagen, to be shaved or see friends who spent the summer in town.
Much of his time at Rolighed was devoted to literary work. His room on the first floor was an excellent study, and many literary works from the last phase of his active life were finished at Rolighed. As a rule inspiration came from elsewhere, when his muse paid him one of the visits which, as the years went by, became all too rare, and the first draft was immediately written down. But the final polishing, the “education”, as he put it about the novel “Lykke-Peer” (Lucky Peer), took place at Rolighed. There are good reasons why his last collection of tales, the one from 1872, is introduced by a dedication to Rolighed, where the concluding lines go like this:
Mit Hjem i Hjemmet, hvor bag Hyldens Hang
Mit Liv fik Solskin og min Harpe Klang,
Dig bringer jeg taknemlig, glad min Sang!
(My home of homes, where sunny days taught me
To sound my harp behind the elder tree,
This grateful song I dedicate to thee)
When at Rolighed, he mingled with the younger members of the family, the children of the house and their friends, and younger relatives on visits. This might take the form of participating in the croquet games of the young, even taking part in a game of billiards in the billiard room. And here, as in other circles of friends, he entertained by producing his famous paper cuts, just as he extemporized verses on suggested end rhymes, the so-called bouts-rimés, constructed riddles and other forms of party games. His talent for binding bouquets was likewise fully displayed at Rolighed, where he found material enough for his interesting and untraditional bouquets both in the flower and the vegetable garden. His main contribution to the entertainment of all, however, was his readings, both of his own works and those of others. We have a description from a friend of the family, Axelline Lund, the wife of the painter F. C. Lund, of Andersen reading in the Melchior circle. It is from 1905 and is printed where few people will find it — in Husmoderens Blad (the housewife's magazine). “In this lovely home, where warmth of heart, wealth and interest in all things beautiful and good were to be found, where jokes and repartee flew across the table and from mouth to mouth, like shuttlecocks, where the poet was always the revered and welcome guest, often for weeks and months, here it was that I heard him read his tales aloud for the first time, something which I later heard numerous times. After coffee and cigars the footman brought a carafe of water and a glass on a silver salver, which was placed in front of the corner sofa and then Andersen sat down. First he looked around him in the circle, cleaning has glasses, in order, as I suspect, to note which of the guests were present, and then he would say a couple of words by way of introduction. To judge his reading nowadays, when reading aloud has become an art in its own right, he would hardly belong in the first rank according to the rules of that art, and yet those who have heard him read will find that nobody can do it in such an original and captivating way.
Sometimes during a silent pause, while he took a mouthful of water, he would send a deep and searching glance around to assess and enjoy the captivation and exhilaration among his audience. Particularly the women were enchanted, but the men, too, especially Carl Bloch, were often much interested ”25. And at least once a year he would entertain the whole house, including the servants, by reading in the daytime. We have a description by the son, Carl Melchior, of such an entertainment during the annual shelling of peas. Then everybody — the members of the family, guests and the whole staff, from the housekeeper and down, including the people looking after the garden — assembled in the ironing room next to the kitchen in the basement, and shelled a mountain of peas, while Andersen made the time pass quickly by reading aloud26.
To write and receive letters was almost a necessity of life for Hans Christian Andersen. Correspondence was one of the ways in which he preserved friendships. Even if he often complained about his great “letter debt”, he was not quite serious. For he knew very well that he himself was the cause that he had contracted this debt, and he worked very hard to get rid of it. Otherwise he could not hope for an answer and he was very glad when the answering letter came, preferably if it was as full of matter as the one he had sent.
Also in his relation to his new friends in the Henriques and Melchior families, the letters served to preserve the friendship. Usually he addressed himself to the lady of the family, but in relation to the Henriques family he had the disappointment that Therese Henriques was not very good at “delivering letters”. She found her own letters dull and uninteresting and asked her husband to write instead. And he understood the art of writing letters, often very entertaining ones27.
Luckily it was different with the Melchiors. In Dorothea Melchior he had found a correspondent who loved writing letters, and in spite of her many other tasks, she took the time to write many, often very long letters. Even if the correspondence had to take place in the late evening or late at night, when everybody else in the house was sound asleep. And then — like Andersen — she had many correspondents. During her long stay in Algeria 1869-70 she had at one time contracted so large a debt of letters that she was on the brink of bankruptcy, as she called it. Among her correspondents of equal importance with Hans Christian Andersen, were first and foremost her relatives at home — when she herself was away — and the daughters, who were often absent, as in the case of the daughter Anna, who suffered from a chest disease (asthmatic bronchitis), and spent the winter months in milder climes, one winter on St. Croix and two in Torquay on the south coast of England.
Mrs Melchior liked writing letters, and she knew how to make them interesting. Therefore her letters often became very long, as already mentioned. Her husband and children teased her with her long letters. In her relation to Andersen, however, the length was no problem. On the contrary. He could not have them long enough. His own letters normally did not run to more than four pages, but then the pages were filled to the brim. For Mrs Melchior it happened that the letters came to eight or ten pages, but as Andersen once said to her “Of course you never have the time to make them short”.
Andersen's letters were normally written when he had moved from Copenhagen, whether he was staying at a manor house or travelling abroad. As far as the travels are concerned, within these years there were his journeys to Spain 1862-63, to Holland and Portugal in 1866, the two trips to Paris during the World Exhibition there in 1867, one of them supplemented with a trip to Switzerland, his travels in 1868 to Holland and Paris, Switzerland and Germany, where on his way back he was so unlucky as to hurt his leg, even twice, which led to many complaints and forced him to stay with the Jewish family Warburg in Altona during his illness.
His journey south 1869-70 was planned to end with a stay around Christmas at the French Riviera with Mrs Melchior and three of her daughters. But the plan came to nothing, because Mrs Melchior — out of consideration for her daughter Anna — had to continue her journey to the other side of the Mediterranean, to Algeria, which since 1830 had been a French colony. She tried to make Andersen, too, cross the Mediterranean. However, he dared not embark on a voyage, so he stayed on the northern side of the Mediterranean, in Nizza (now Nice), felt lonely and regretted his unsuccessful trip. Many letters crossed the Mediterranean, and Mrs Melchior's letters here are obviously the most interesting. She was very good at describing the very different scenery and the picturesque life which she saw in Algeria. Andersen's letters from this winter journey mostly give expression to his regrets and his loneliness. His reports by letter from his journey to Norway in 1871, on the other hand, contained much more; this was the last of his “triumphal journeys”, and it was followed by the two journeys to Switzerland in 1872 (with William Bloch) and in 1873 (with Nicolai Bøgh). Among Andersen's correspondents Dorothea Melchior is probably the one who was informed best and in most detail about these three journeys.
When both parties were travelling, they made great efforts to communicate to the other where the answering letter should be addressed to — as a rule sent poste restante — but these efforts were not always successful. Some letters did not reach the recipient, which annoyed Hans Christian Andersen in particular.
This happened in 1867, when the Melchiors were travelling around Switzerland with only short stays at individual destinations, whereas Andersen wrote from Paris. And the same thing happened during the unsuccessful journey in 1869-70, which is not really to be wondered at.
Mrs Melchior was almost as great a traveller as Hans Christian Andersen. In the course of the few years covered by their correspondence she made a total of six journeys, i.e. a trip to London (with the World Exhibition that year), and to England and Scotland in 1862, followed by a short trip to Hamburg in the same year. 1863-64 then saw the long and extended journey south, with Italy as the main target and with excursions to Egypt, a short trip to Stockholm in the exhibition summer of 1866, the extended journey to Switzerland in 1867 already mentioned, in the beginning together with Mr and Mrs Bille, and then the longest of her journeys, which took her south 1869-70, with her sick daughter Anna, and which ended with a more than six months' stay in Algeria. The last of her journeys, at least before 1875, took place in 1873, this time only accompanied by Moritz G. Melchior; they travelled to the seaside resort of Ostende, followed by another trip to London. To round off the picture of the travels of her husband and herself it must be added that before the visit in 1862, they had already visited London twice, and as it appears from this correspondence, she had also visited Paris earlier. She was in other words a widely travelled lady. It obviously amused the two correspondents to tell each other about experiences they each of them had had in the same places. It is also clear that Dorothea Melchior considered herself a poor writer of travel letters. At least more so than her correspondent. However, this modesty is not really justified.
Also Moritz G. Melchior often travelled, but most of his journeys were business trips. Every year he visited London to be present at the big auctions of tea, which were the leading in Europe. He left journeys to more distant destinations, such as the West Indies and Iceland, to his unmarried younger brother, Moses Melchior — being both a husband and a father himself. It was also Moses who in Melbourne, Australia, was in charge of the establishment of the branch Melchior & Co.28
However, most of Mrs Melchior's letters were written in Copenhagen, where from her position at Højbroplads or at Rolighed she told of great things and small in her “dear Copenhagen”. When she sat down to write, it was also to “chat” with her absent friend, of whom she knew that he, too, felt like listening to her “chat”. It is evident that during the absence of her friend, she missed her almost daily talks with Andersen. And the content of her “chat by correspondence” indirectly gives us an impression of what it was the two of them had to tell each other, when he came to her home in Copenhagen and had a nice chat with her.
Jonas Collin Jr. remarks in a letter to Andersen that “I assume that you are so filled with news from your other friends about engagements, weddings, deaths, the theatre and literature that you do not want any more …”29. The remarks about the “other friends” may aim at Mrs Melchior, who indeed through her letters followed her family and friends in all they did, just as we hear about what happened in the Musical Society or performances at the Royal Theatre or in Amaliegade (the Casino Theatre). There are many evaluations of the performance of the actors, nor are details from their private lives left out. All that relates to the new dynasty, the Glücksborgs, seems very interesting to Mrs Melchior, and one may assume that Andersen found it just as interesting. Her reports from her participation in “court life” must also have interested him, as he would have been a participant himself, if he had been at home. In her reports from Copenhagen she also includes mention of the bazaars that she helped to organize. Charity bazaars were one of the ways in which the affluent bourgeoisie provided money for the underprivileged who needed help, whether they were single mothers, “milliners” (Andersen's expression) or old sailors or their widows.
Mrs Melchior did not hold back. As already mentioned, philanthropy was a decided duty for members of the Melchior family.
Via Dorothea Melchior's letters, Hans Christian Andersen was kept au courant with the many people who, for some reason or other, passed through the doors of the Melchior home, including Melchior's political colleagues, who were invited for a “parliament party” in his home, parties in which Andersen normally also took part, when at home. As we know, politics were not one of Andersen's great interests, but this did not mean that he could not enjoy himself among politicians. A frequent guest, who mostly came alone, however, not as a participant in large parties, was Andersen's friend from Glorup, Count A. G. Moltke-Huitfeldt. Presumably he lived a lonely life at a hotel in Copenhagen, when parliamentary work called him to the metropolis, and he enjoyed his conversations with the beautiful and clever Mrs Melchior. She on her part liked to tell Andersen about her conversations with the Count.
It is obvious to ask about what is not told, but what she might well have told Andersen. Her husband was indeed an important man of business, but we hear very little of this side of his exensive activities. One almost has to guess as to a possible business purpose behind this or that dinner, with a sort of “analysis” of the guest list. The “West Indians”, who came frequently, various naval officers and captains from the merchant fleet, document the fact that the firm of Melchior had important trade and shipping connections with this faraway Danish colony.
It often happened that young naval officers left the navy for a time to try their luck as merchant captains, and they liked to do it in the well reputed firm of Melchior and the shipping line attached to it, so Hans Christian Andersen often met naval officers in Melchior's home. When we see that a circle of people with connections in Iceland had been invited, it makes us suppose that this was to do with “Det danske Fiskeriselskab” (the Danish fishing company) and its activities in the Arctic Ocean off Iceland. But we get no further information than these hints. Perhaps the Melchior family followed the English custom not to discuss business at home. It does not look as if political problems were very much discussed either, although Dorothea Melchior's silence may be due to the fact that she was well aware that Andersen regarded politics as outside his domain. The Melchior family was interested in politics, and regularly attended the well-attended constitution meetings on Eremitagesletten, so they were politically active, belonging to the national liberal wing. But in spite of suggestions she never succeeded in enticing Andersen to come along, not even on 5 June 1869, when a very good friend of both of them, C. St. A. Bille, was the main speaker on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Constitution. And then this editor, Mr Bille, was regarded as one of the best speakers of the period, an oratorical genius.
Mrs Melchior herself did not attach much importance or interest to her briefings. To her they were “similar to that which is printed with small letters in the dailies” (letter no. 21, but her “confidential chitchat” — Paul V. Rubow's expression about the Henriques letters — has the value of undoubtedly reflecting the conversations that the two correspondents normally had in the home in Copenhagen, face to face, whose content Andersen has not reported in his diary. As Mrs Melchior expressed it in her letter to Andersen during his stay in Holland in 1868: “I miss your kind morning talk and I do not enjoy my lunch, because I cannot break bread with you, as indeed I have taken the liberty of doing (letter no. 75.
Incidentally it must be mentioned that there is nothing in the correspondence to suggest that among the Melchiors Andersen was surrounded by Jews to an extent which he had never experienced before in his life. Being Jews, the Melchior and Henriques families were all members of the Jewish community, Moritz G. Melchior even for a time chairman of the board of the community, but apparently this was not reflected in everyday life. If one did not know differently, one would think that these Jews were just as arch Danish as Hans Christian Andersen himself. In his diaries one can find here and there observations which Andersen has made concerning the way Jews celebrated the high seasons of life and of the year, but in the letters these things have no importance whatever. And one may indeed wonder that Andersen in a letter from 1870 would suggest to Moritz Melchior that he ought to pass by Oberammergau, where Andersen — in principle a Christian — had himself been 10 years before. To suggest to Melchior as a Jew to watch the passion plays of that place, where the audience relives the Passion of Christ on the cross and in which the Jews are the the wicked ones, seems almost tactless. Perhaps the explanation is that while writing this letter Andersen had completely forgotten that his friend was himself a Jew.
The correspondence between Hans Christian Andersen and the Melchior family consists of 415 extant letters — or rather: 415 letters whose text is known, either in original or a reliable copy. In addition there are 156 missing letters, i.e. letters about which it is known that they were written, sent and/or received, where the sender or recipient is known, or where the text or content of the letter is not known, neither in the original nor in a copy, because it has not been possible to find either an original or a copy. A list of these missing letters is printed in vol. III (p. 292).
With these letters, about 570 in number, exchanged over a period of only 10 to 15 years, the Melchior correspondence is one of the weightiest among Andersen's correspondences. For the time 1860-75 only the letters from and to the Collin family reach such a great number, indeed greater. But the Collin family, here understood as Edvard and Henriette Collin and their children, Edvard Collin's sisters and brothers and their children and grandchildren, Andersen exchanged a total of 700 letters during the same period. Andersen's correspondence with the Henriques family is not at all of a similar size. It is true that the size cannot be stated precisely. The printed edition of the letters comprises 126 letters, all from Andersen to members of the Henriques family, and in addition there are 50 letters, which he received from Martin R. Henriques, but which have not been published. Unfortunately we do not know the total number of letters which he received from the Henriques family. The letters from Therese Henriques and the children are missing. However, in the Andersen correspondence it is a general feature that the number of letters from Andersen surpasses that of letters to him. We estimate that the Henriques correspondence as a whole came to about 225 letters, i.e. less than half the Melchior correspondence.
As mentioned the preserved Melchior correspondence comprises 415 letters, 293 letters from Andersen to the Melchiors (the great majority of them to Dorothea Melchior) and 122 letters from them to him (again the vast majority from Dorothea Melchior). But to this should be added 156 letters, which at the moment must be regarded as not preserved or missing. In this category there are 43 letters from Andersen and 113 letters which various members of the Melchior family sent him. So it is safe to conclude that posterity has been keener on letters from him than on letters to him. Which in itself is not surprising.
The relatively large number of missing letters requires an explanation. The list of missing letters, which is printed in vol. III, has been prepared after a close reading of Andersen's diaries and obviously the preserved letters themselves, in which other letters now missing are mentioned as having been sent or received — or are inquired about as sent or received or as not having been received. From 1860 to his death Andersen kept complete diaries, both when he was travelling and when he was at home. And as a rule he carefully noted in the diaries from whom he had had letters and to whom he had written. However, not always. There are several exceptions to this rule. These notes, collated with the information which can be extracted from the letters themselves, make it possible to calculate a relatively large percentage of lost letters in the Melchior correspondence, about 27%. Several factors are behind this: A few letters may not have reached their addressee at all, which might happen when both sender and recipient were travelling abroad, where letters had to be sent poste restante to the town where the sender supposed the recipient to be staying and ready to ask for letters. Other letters may well still be preserved in places which the editor has not succeeded in finding.
However, most of the missing letters must be presumed lost, either through carelessness from the recipient or his heirs or — more likely — by deliberate destruction. This is in all likelihood true of the letters which Moritz G. Melchior and other members of the Melchior family sent to Andersen and which were returned after his death.
It is symptomatic of the attitude of the Melchior family to the value of Hans Christian Andersen's letters as contrasted to their own that in 1867 Dorothea Melchior could write to him: “I think it is superfluous to repeat to you … how much I appreciate your very kind letters, which are preserved as a treasure” (letter no. 51, whereas about her own letters she wrote that “I hope that you will be so kind as to destroy all those letters of mine which are only intended to give you a little information from my own narrow circle!” (letter no. 255. The letters from Andersen were carefully preserved — and luckily also the majority of Dorothea Melchior's letters to him — whereas Moritz G. Melchior and the other members of the family probably destroyed the letters they had sent to Andersen as being without interest for posterity.
At Hans Christian Andersen's death all his correspondents from the Melchior family were alive, and according to the principle which Edvard Collin, his sole heir, and one of the two executors of the estate (the other being Moritz G. Melchior), followed in his handling of Andersen's estate, including the many papers, those letterwriters who were still alive, were to have their own letters returned. Obviously Dorothea Melchior had her many letters returned to her and luckily refrained from destroying them. How her husband and their children and her husband's relatives — and their children — treated the letters can only be conjectured, but in all likelihood they were destroyed. This has happened in the case of several Andersen correspondences, which are therefore only “half” correspondences, e.g. the letters, which he received from Henriette Scavenius at Basnæs. The same is true of the letters to him from the publisher Carl B. Lorck in Leipzig, and there are other examples.
It is true that we do not know in detail how the return of the letters to the Melchiors was handled in the time after 1875. Before this return could be effected, his close friends from the later and last years, C. St. A. Bille and Nicolai Bøgh, were to have access to the letters to select letters and passages for publication in a collection of letters to and from Andersen. The first volume, Breve til H.C. Andersen (letters to Hans Christian Andersen) was finished first and was already available in 1877, incidentally without one letter from the Melchior family.
For the next collection, Breve fra H.C. Andersen (letters from Hans Christian Andersen), which appeared in two volumes in 1878, the Melchior family contributed 32 letters in all, 24 to Dorothea Melchior, 1 to Moritz G. Melchior, 4 letters to the daughters Johanne, Louise and Anna, and 1 to each of the grandchildren William, Sally and Charlotte.
It may be assumed that after Bille and Bøgh had selected and copied the letters which they wanted to include in their edition, Edvard Collin saw to it that all the letters that Andersen had received from the Melchior family over the years were returned to it. At this time the eldest Melchior daughter, Johanne, was married and had left the home, so she was probably given both her own letters and those of her children. But all the remaining letters, from and to Andersen, presumably remained together in the home at Højbroplads, barring those letters which were immediately destroyed. Here they remained as a sort of “common property” for the children after the death of the parents in 1884 and 1885. Before that, the number of heirs had been considerably reduced, in that the daughters Anna and Thea and the son Emil had died, all unmarried, before their parents. Of the eight children that Mrs. Melchior had given birth to only half survived her.
Thus the letters were still largely kept together at the time, 1922-23, when Elith Reumert borrowed them to use them for his book, and only when the last remaining heir, Louise Melchior, died in 1934, did the four descendants of Moritz G. and Dorothea Melchior still living divide them; they were the daughter of the daughter Johanne Melchiors, Helga Melchior (1881-1961), and the three children of the son Carl H. Melchior, the sons Ralph (1890-1952) and Harald (1896-1973) and the daughter Helga Carla Melchior (1893-1977). At the sharing of the collection, which took place in the following year, 1935, it was noted down which letters individual heirs took over, in the list which is here referred to as the “M-list”30. It seems that the principle followed was that each of the heirs by turns got a “year” of letters, but in order that the sharing might be equal and fair, there were some departures from this main rule. Quite a lot of the three fourths which went to the children of Carl H. Melchior, are still in private hands, belonging to the family, whereas the last fourth, which went to the granddaughter, Helga Melchior, has been considerably split up. How this happened it is impossible to say today, and it does not really matter. But the fact remains that the letters, bought at auctions or from “heirs other than issue or spouse” or are given to the collections of the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, almost all of them belong to the share of the said Helga Melchior. From her part of the letters there may still exist letters which it has been impossible to trace.
However, this does not exhaust the fate of the letters in later days. In spite of the fact that the family have done their utmost to preserve most Andersen letters together within the family, the stock has occasionally been reduced, although not to any great extent. This has happened when letters have been given to friends, to institutions or for charity. Thus the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, in accordance with the will of Louise Melchior, was given a number of letters, and other letters have left the collection in other ways, as gifts to Elith Reumert (three letters in all) and to the actor and Andersen reader, Jacob Texière. Or they have been given to auctions, the proceeds of which were to go to charity. Thus an important letter was auctioned off for the benefit of starving Russians in 1922, and another was later given to the Finland aid in 1940.
Luckily the family have seen to it that most of the letters have been copied, primarily the letters given away, but also many letters which still were and today remain with it, have to a large extent been copied.
These typed copies were presumably made by Clara Melchior, née Raphael (1866-1945), married to her cousin Carl H. Melchior. She was an invalid and bound to a wheelchair, so copying the letters was good therapy for her. However, they may also have been copied by their daughter, Helga C. Melchior (1893-1961). She was the most interested in Andersen of her generation, which the editor knows from his visits to this charming lady in her home at Høstvej in Charlottenlund. Moreover, she was an admirable narrator, when she passed on what her aunt Louise in a spirited way had told her before her death in 193431. These copies are numerous, and by means of them it is possible to fill in holes in the correspondence, where the original letters are not found. The copies (owned by the family, the Royal Library and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum) are so numerous that one gets the impression that the purpose has been to the give each of the four heirs from the sharing in 1934-35 a “complete” collection, consisting of one quarter original letters and three quarters copies. However, this is only guesswork on the part of the editor!
However, there is a small group of letters, whose content is only known through the edition of Bille and Bøgh, in which abridgements have certainly been made. They include two and a half letters from Andersen, i.e. his letter from Frijsenborg 23-24 August 1868 to Mrs Melchior (Bf A no. 398, letter no. 105 in this edition, where there are abridgements in the first half of the letter, whereas the latter half (dated 24 August) is known in original. Letter no. 107 (Bf A no. 399), Frijsenborg 27 August 1868, to the stepgrandchild William, is hardly abridged, whereas this is the case with letter no. 205 (Bf A no. 418, Basnæs 19 June 1871) to Dorothea Melchior. For the remaining Melchior letters, which Bille and Bøgh included in their edition, the originals are luckily preserved, so that the holes in the printed, but abridged, letters have been easy to fill in. Bille and Bøgh's abridgements are marked by three dashes (— — —) at the relevant places. Normally abridgements have affected the greetings, which Andersen sent to members of the family and the circle of friends, and we can do without them. Only very few letters have been more extensively abridged. This is true about letters no. 183, 258, 269, 299, 460 and 463 in the Bille and Bøgh edition. In the preface to their edition of the letters from Hans Christian Andersen, Bille and Bøgh do write that “in the letters printed here, passages have been cut or left out on a large scale”, but luckily this does not seem to have affected the Melchior letters very much.
The same thing unfortunately is not true about the letters which Elith Reumert deemed relevant for his book. Before his abridgements and entire treatment of the letters is described in detail, it must be mentioned that he had excluded quite a number of letters in advance. Of the 415 letters which the editor has been able to locate and which are here printed complete, 226 also appear in Reumert's book, there rendered in more, and particularly less, complete form. By simple subtraction this leaves 189 letters, which Reumert excluded. However, he hardly had access to all the letters, which in their time were available for Bille and Bøgh. As already mentioned some of the letters must have gone to the married daughter, Johanne Melchior; these letters were most likely passed on to her heirs after her death in 1911, and it does not look as if Reumert applied to them. So Reumert's “rejection percentage” must thus in all fairness be reduced to some extent. According to his preface, he had “more than 300 letters” at his disposal, a number which seems plausible.
Of his abridgements Reumert writes in his preface that “I had to make extensive abridgements in the vast collection of manuscripts, and I have followed the principle of keeping primarily all that could serve to illuminate the daily life and personality of the two correspondents, next, as far as possible, all which relates to important events and prominent people in their time”, admitting that primarily Mrs Melchior's often very long letters had suffered, just as Andersen's statements about his health and the weather — and finally yet another element had been left out, i.e. the “greetings, which were always faithfully deployed towards the end of all his letters, which to him were a matter of conscience of great importance, but which by being repeated ad nauseam become tiresome”.
As one might expect, the problem of abridgements was discussed by Louise Melchior and Elith Reumert. While Reumert was working on his book, having finished the manuscript, he loyally let Louise Melchior read all he had written. In a letter, which unfortunately has not been preserved in the correspondence, but which has been mentioned earlier, and which is now in the possession of the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, Louise Melchior apparently complained about the size of the many cuts, and also she wanted the book more copiously illustrated than Reumert had planned. It appears from the correspondence that she discussed the problem with “Professor Nyrup”. Even though neither she nor Reumert mentioned the first name of this professor, only one person is possible, i.e. the Romance philologist Kristoffer Nyrup, who apparently supported Louise Melchior in her position. She even went as far as to suggest the possibility of trying to have the book partly financed by contributions from third parties, to avoid the many abridgements and provide more copious illustrations. In his answering letter, dated 6 August 1924, Reumert reacted sharply. He thanked her for her letter, but “must admit that it made me very nervous and not until this evering did I become calm enough to answer you without forgetting myself — e.g. because of Prof. Nyrup's kind intervention. His [i.e. Nyrup's] strictly scholarly production must be seen from an entirely different angle than an aesthetic book. — However, I will not try to counter his arguments, which have caused me some irritation. — I only ask you, dear Miss Melchior, to preserve the trust that until now I have felt great pleasure in having. Many comments could be made to various passages in your letter, but I will content myself with the main issue. Publication of the book about Andersen and your parents is so little dependent on the question of money, that the publishers have given me completely free hands with regard both to its size and the number of illustrations. So your idea of supplementing with money from a third party is very surprising to me. The abridgements I have made in the letters, I consider absolutely necessary. It is important that the readers should be kept captivated. Anything superfluous that does not elucidate or teach must be kept away”32. And then Reumert proceeds to discussing the illustrations, which in this connection is less important.
In her answering letter, dated 7 August 1924, the lady retracts, but does defend Professor Nyrup's “kind intervention” and admits that as far as the abridgements of her mother's letters are concerned, she “cannot look objectively at this”. The end of this little controversy — certainly at the last moment, just before the book went into print — was, however, that the manuscript was not changed and Elith Reumert's abridgements were not touched either.
Reument made many and sometimes rather drastic cuts. And it is an exception if he states in his text that abridgements have been made. It is obvious that he cannot both make cuts and at the same time provide a text which is reasonably coherent and readable. To avoid such “lacunae” in the text, he rephrased on several occasions, so that it sometimes almost looks like actual additions. As an example of this, a letter from Andersen in Copenhagen to Dorothea Melchior, who at the time was in Algeria, is reproduced below. First the text as printed by Reumert, p. 149:
Kjøbenhavn den 1ste Mai 1870.
Kjære Fru Melchior!
Tak for Deres prægtige Brev og Tak for Blomsterne De lagde i Brevet! Henved en Maaned er gaaet, siden jeg havde faaet en Skrivelse fra Dem. — Alt hvad De har fortalt mig om Algier fylder mig med Længsel efter at komme der! hvor det var ilde, at jeg ikke betids følte Trang dertil, ja, næsten maa jeg tilstaae, Skræk derfor. Jeg syntes, der forestod mig noget ondt. Kan der være en Anelse om Sligt, da har jeg følt den og saaledes fulgt “høieste Villie”! mon jeg der et kommende Aar skal samles med Dem, Deres Mand og Børn? Ja, det er som at vilde tyde Begivenheder i Maanen. Jeg har ikke for Øieblikket Lyst til at reise, og dog har jeg en Længsel efter at komme afsted, men jeg veed ikke hvorhen, ud i Solskinnet, ind under grønne Træer, fornæmme Foraaret rundt om mig. Gid jeg var hos Dem! ja gid jeg mødte Dem i Schweiz! — dog Vaaren kommer vel snart til Danmark, og De og Deres kommer, naar der “rides Sommer i By”. — Jeg bliver til ind i Mai her paa Høibroplads, da der synes ikke at være Hindring derfor; saa flyver jeg, maaskee den 12te til Espe, Basnæs, Holsteinborg — ja, kommer der en Guldregn fra Lotteriet, saa flyver jeg Dem imøde, ellers bliver jeg i Hjemmet og nedskriver hvad min Musa fortæller mig. Paa Høibroplads har hun hyppigt forundt mig Vesit, og jeg har at læse for Dem “Hvad hele Familien sagde”, “Oldefaer”, “Lysene” og “det Utroligste”. Igaar begyndte jeg et nyt Eventyr: “Lykke-Peer”. — I Fredags er Professor Høyen død, han laa otte Dage tilsengs men leed ikke. Det er underligt at mærke, hvorledes Rækken af betydende Mænd fortyndes, hvilken Skare har jeg dog kjendt, som Alle ere flyvne hen — “som Skyen der ikke kommer tilbage!” — Jo nærmere man selv staaer for Tour til Reise ind i “det ubekjendte Land”, des oftere kommer det Een i Tanken: hvor og hvorledes? og ligemeget vide de Viseste og Eenfoldigste. Lille Marie spurgte forleden sin Moder i stor Alvor: Har Bedstemoder faaet sin egen Seng med op i Himlen, eller ligger hun i Guds?” Der er noget yndigt og dog halvt komisk i Barnets Forestilling om det Hiinsides, men er vor stort klogere? — Nu, jeg stoler paa: “det bedste skeer!”. — Med mit legemlige Befindende er det i de sidste Dage godt, jeg generes ikke længere af de kunstige Tænder, men da to af de naturlige under alle Prøvelser ere ifærd med at gaae deres Vei, frygter jeg for at en ny Tour forestaaer. De seer altsaa, hvor ung jeg igrunden er. “Jeg skifter Tænder”. Igaar opførtes Wagners “Lohengrin” første Gang og tog sig godt ud. Dette Brev haaber jeg kommer til Dem, før De forlader det foraarsskjønne Algier.
Deres takn. hengivne
[Copenhagen 1 May 1870
Dear Mrs Melchior!
Thank you for your magnificent letter and for the flowers you put in it. About a month has passed since I had a letter from you. — All that you told me of Algeria fills me with longing to go there! How sad I was that I did not feel the urge, while there was still time, indeed, I must confess that I almost feared it. I thought something evil lay in wait for me. If one may have a premonition of such things, then indeed I had it and thus followed “the will of the Almighty”! I wonder if in a future year I shall be together with you, your husband and children there? Well, it is as if trying to interpret events on the moon. At the moment I do not feel like travelling, and yet I have an urge to go, but I do not know where, into the sunshine, under the green trees, to feel spring around me. I wish I were with you! Yes, I wish I could meet you in Switzerland! — Well, spring must soon come to Denmark, and you and your family will come when they are “bringing in May”. — I will stay here at Høibroplads till May, as nothing seems to be against it; then I will fly out, maybe on the 12th, to Espe, Basnæs, Holsteinborg — well, if I am met with a shower of gold from the lottery, I will fly towards you, otherwise I will stay at home and write down what my muse dictates. At Høibroplads she has often been pleased to visit, and I have things to read to you: “What the Whole Family Said”, “Great-Grandfather”, “The Candles” and “The Most Incredible Thing”. Yesterday I started a new tale: “Lucky Peer”. — Last Friday Professor Høyen died, he was bedridden for eight days, but did not suffer. It is strange to think how the whole circle of prominent men is thinned, how many have I not known, but they have all left us — “as the cloud that does not return!” — The closer one is oneself to travel into “the unknown country”, the oftener one comes to think: where and how? And the wise know no more than the simple. Little Marie asked her mother very seriously the other day: Has Granny got her own bed in heaven, or does she lie in God's?” There is something lovely, and yet half comical, in her child's conception of the hereafter, but is ours much more intelligent? — Well, I trust that: “the best will happen!”. — My health has been good recently, the false teeth do not bother me anymore, but as two of my own are in the process of leaving under all these trials, I fear that a new bout is to be expected. So you see how young I really am. “I am cutting my teeth”. Yesterday they gave Wagner's Lohengrin for the first time, and it came off well. I hope that this letter will come to you, before you leave vernal Algeria.
Yours gratefully and affectionately
Next the same letter is reproduced after the original (letter no. 181 in this edition), where Reumert's cuts have been emphasized by bold and where his changes have been put in brackets:
Kjøbenhavn den lste Mai 1870.
Kjære Fru Melchior!
I forgaars modtog jeg [Tak for] Deres prægtige, riigholdige Brev, det jeg meget længtes efter, henved en Maaned var gaaet siden jeg havde faaet en Skrivelse fra Dem, stilet til mig selv. [og] Tak for Blomsterne De lagde i Brevet, dog endnu mere frisk og duftende havde De lagt een endnu som mine Tanker løftede ud og saa blomstre, det deilige bøgestore Orangetræ med sin Blomstersnee og de gule Roser som slyngede sig op om Stammen. Jeg fornam selve Duften; jeg sad under Træet og legede med det lille nødebrune Barn; jeg fortalte lille Marie om hende, da jeg senere besøgte Henriques; Deres Svigerinde Fru Therese talte med saa megen Kjærlighed om Dem, længtes saa inderligt efter et Par Ord fra Dem; beklagede saa meget at hun var saa lidt skikket til at skrive Breve, ikke havde Stemningen men hele Hjertelaget; hendes Mand skulde skrive og give Halvdelen fra dem hver. De som er saa hjertens god, glæd hende med en lille, ganske lille Skrivelse. Læg den som en Blomst, et Blad, ind i et af de første Breve De sender hjem og jeg veed De skaffer hende en stor Glæde. [Henved en Maaned er gaaet, siden jeg havde faaet en Skrivelse fra Dem.] — Alt hvad De fortæller [har fortalt] mig om Landets Deilighed [d.v.s. Algier], om Folkelivet og det skjønne Foraarsveir fylder mig, med Længsel efter at komme der! hvor det dog var ilde at jeg slet ikke betids følte Trang dertil, ja næsten maa jeg tilstaae, Skræk derfor. Jeg syntes der forestod mig noget ondt. Kan der være en Anelse om Sligt, da har jeg følt den og faaet den og saaledes fulgt “høieste Villie! mon jeg skulde komme til Algier? mon jeg der et kommende Aar skulde samles med Dem, Deres Mand og Børn? Ja det er næsten som at vilde [ville] tyde Begivenheder i Maanen. Jeg har ikke for Øieblikket Lyst [til] at reise, og dog har jeg atter en Længsel efter at komme afsted, men jeg veed [ei/ikke] hvorhen, det er alene ud i Solskinnet, ind under grønne Træer, fornemme [fornæmme] Foraaret rundt om mig. De har det nu i hele dets rige Fylde og i Sydfrankrige vil det jo ogsaa nu blomstre, jeg saae det i Cannes, hvor jeg paa Hjemreise blev i to Dage. Den første Dag jeg var der med Jonas Collin, blæste ikke en Vind, Solen skinnede varmt, Paaskelillier og Primulaer blomstrede, Mandeltræernes Knopper svulmede store; det var den eneste sollyse Dag paa hele min Reise, Dagen derpaa var det regnfuldt og Middelhavet væltede svære Bølger. Nu er De snart i den lille venlige By, er der, jeg formoder det, ogsaa med Deres Mand, som vel ikke flyver mod Danmark, naar De er naaet Marseille. Gid jeg var hos Dem! ja gid jeg mødte Dem i Schweiz! — dog Vaaren kommer vel snart til Danmark og De og Deres kommer naar der “rides Sommer i By”! — Jeg bliver til ind i Mai her paa Høibroplads, da det [der] synes ikke at være Hindring derfor; saa flyver jeg, maaskee den 12 til Espe, til Basnæs, til Holsteinborg, eller — ja kommer der en Guldregn fra Lotteriet, eller fra ukjendt Stormand i England eller Amerika, der indsætter mig til Universal-Arving, ja saa flyver jeg Dem imøde, ellers — og det er ogsaa godt, saa faar jeg noget bestilt, bliver jeg i Hjemmet og nedskriver det Meget [hvad] min Musa fortæller mig. Paa Høibroplads har hun hyppigt forundt mig Vesit og jeg har at læse for Dem “Hvad hele Familien sagde”, “Oldefaer”, “Lysene” og “det Utroligste”. Igaar begyndte jeg et nyt Eventyr: “Lykke-Peer”. — Fra Bloch og hans Frue har jeg mange Hilsner til Dem, han er i forgaars blevet Professsor. For Tiden maler han paa “Korsfæstelsen”, man seer Christus ophængt paa Korset, Marie ligger besvimet, Marie Magdalene hensjunken i Smerte og Arimathia staaer deeltagende hos dem. — I Fredags er Professor Høyen død, han laae en otte Dage tilsengs men leed ikke. Det er underligt at mærke hvorledes Rækkerne af betydende Mænd fortyndes, hvilken Skare har jeg dog kjendt som Alle ere flyvne hen — “som Skyen der ikke kommer tilbage!” — Jo nærmere man selv staaer for Tour til Reise ind i “det ubekjendte Land”, des oftere kommer det Een i Tanken: hvor og hvorledes? og ligemeget vide de Viseste og de Eenfoldigste. Lille Marie Henriques spurgte forleden sin Moder i stor Alvor: Har Bedstemoder faaet sin egen Seng med op i Himlen eller ligger hun i den gode Guds.” Der er noget yndigt og dog halvt komisk i Barnets Forestilling om det Hinsides, men er vor stort klogere? — Nu, jeg stoler paa: “det bedste skeer!” — Med mit legemlige Befindende er det i de sidste fire, fem Dage godt, jeg generes ikke længer[e] af de kunstige Tænder, men da to af de naturlige under alle Prøvelser ere ifærd med at gaae deres Vei, frygter jeg for at en ny Tour forestaaer, men efter denne er det vel heelt overstaaet. De seer altsaa hvor ung jeg igrunden er: “jeg skifter Tænder”, som det jo kaldes. Igaar tilbragte jeg Middagen hos Deres Svoger Hr Moses Melchior, den unge forældreløse Hollænderinde, som nu er kommet her til, var netop indtruffet ledsaget af den unge Hr Dehn fra Hamborg; hun saae ganske quik ud. Deres Datter Fru Johanne var livlig og glad ved Eventyret: det Utroligste. Idag har Frøken Jette Melchior sit store Børne-Selskab. Igaar gik jeg tidlig fra Familiekredsen for at faae en Plads i Theatret hvor [opførtes] Wagners Opera “Lohengrin” første Gang blev opført og tog sig godt ud; den gjorde Lykke, Frøken Pfeil og Choret bidrog især hertil. Det nye Drama: et rigt Parti af Fru Magdalene Thoresen er meget beslægtet med “De Nygifte”, men i dette kommer Aandrigheden indenfra, her synes den hængt paa udenfra, det er et bredt tungt Arbeide, der neppe holder sig paa Scenen, dog vidner det om en begavet Forfatterinde, kun ikke for Theatret. Dette Brev haaber jeg kommer til Dem før De forlader det foraarsskjønne Algier. Hils Deres Mand og Døttre paa det hjerteligste.
Deres taknemligt hengivne
[Copenhagen 1 May 1870
Dear Mrs Melchior!
The day before yesterday I received [Thank you for] your magnificent, rich letter, which I have been longing for very much, almost a month had passed since I had my last letter from you, to myself. [and] Thank you for the flowers you put in it, however, even more fresh and fragrant if you had included one, which my thought took out and saw in flower, the magnificent orange tree, as large as a beech, with its snow of flowers and the yellow roses, which wound themselves around the stem. I sensed the scent itself; I sat under the tree and played with the little nut brown child; I told little Marie about her, when I later visited the Henriques family; your sister-in-law, Mrs Therese, spoke so lovingly about you, longed so much for a few words from you; regretted very much that she was so bad at writing letters, did not have the mood, but certainly the inclination; her husband was to write and give half from each of them. You who are so good, please make her happy with a little note [, just a small one]. Put it like a flower, a leaf, into one of the first letters you send home, and I know it will be a great joy to her. [About a month has passed since I had a letter from you.] — All that you [have told] me of the exquisite scenery of the country [i.e. Algeria], about the life and manners and the beautiful spring weather fills me with longing to go there! how sad I was that I did not at all fell feel? the urge, while there was still time, indeed, I must confess that I almost feared it. I thought something evil lay in wait for me. If one may have a premonition of such things, then indeed I had it and thus followed “the will of the Almighty! I wonder if I will ever get to Algeria? I wonder if in a future year I shall be together with you, your husband and children there? Well it is almost like trying to interpret events on the moon. At the moment I do not feel like travelling, and yet I have an urge to go, but I do not know where, only into the sunshine, under the green trees, to feel spring around me. You have it now in all its richness and in the south of France there will also be flowering now, I saw in Cannes, where I stayed for two days on my journey home. The first day I was there with Jonas Collin, not a wind stirred, the sun shone warm, daffodils and primroses were in flower, the buds of the almond trees were big and swelling; this was the only sunny day during my entire journey, the next day was rainy and the Mediterranean moved in heavy waves. Now you will soon be in the kind little town, where I presume also your husband is, he will hardly fly to Denmark when you have reached Marseille. I wish I were with you! Yes, I wish I could meet you in Switzerland! — Well, spring must soon come to Denmark, and you and your family will come when they are “bringing in May”. — I will stay here at Høibroplads till May, as nothing seems to be against it; then I will fly out, maybe on the 12th, to Espe, to Basnæs, to Holsteinborg — well, if I am met with a shower of gold from the lottery, or from an unknown grand seignior in England or America, who makes me his sole heir, I will fly towards you, otherwise — and it is indeed a good thing that I get some work done, I will stay at home and write down the many things that my muse dictates. At Høibroplads she has often been pleased to visit, and I have things to read to you: “What the Whole Family Said”, “Great-Grandfather”, “The Candles” and “The Most Incredible Thing”. Yesterday I started at new tale: “Lucky Peer”. — From Bloch and his wife I send you many greetings, the day before yesterday he became professor. At the time he is painting his “Crucifixion”, one sees Christ on the cross, Mary is in a swoon, Mary Magdalene lost in pain and Arimatheae showing his sympathy, is standing by them. — Last Friday Professor Høyen died, he was bedridden for eight days, but did not suffer. It is strange to think how the whole circle of prominent men is depleted, how many have I not known, but they have all left us — “like the cloud that does not return!” — The closer one is oneself to travel into “the unknown country”, the oftener one comes to think: where and how? And the wise know no more than the simple. Little Marie Henriques asked her mother very seriously the other day: Has Granny got her own bed in heaven, or does she lie in God's?” There is something lovely, and yet half comical, in her child's conception of the hereafter, but is ours much more intelligent? — Well, I trust that: “the best will happen!”. — My health has been good for the last four or five days, the false teeth do not bother me anymore, but as two of my own are in the process of leaving under all these trials, I fear that a new bout is to be expected, but after that the whole thing will be over. So you see how young I really am: “I am cutting my teeth” as it is called. Yesterday I dined with your brother-in-law, Mr Moses Melchior, the young orphaned Dutch lady, who has now arrived, had just come, accompanied by young Mr Dehn from Hamburg; she looked quite sprightly. Your daughter, Mrs Johanne, was lively and happy about the tale: “The Most Incredible Thing”. Today Miss Jette Melchior had her large children's party. Yesterday I left the family circle early to get a seat in the theatre where they gave Wagner's opera Lohengrin and it came off well; it was a success, Miss Pfeil and the chorus particularly contributed to this. The new drama: et rigt Parti (a rich match) by Mrs Magdalene Thoresen much resembles De Nygifte (the newlyweds), but in this spirit comes from within, here it seems to be added from without, it is a broad and heavy piece of work, which will hardly keep the stage, however, it bears witness to a writer of genius, only not for the theatre. I hope that this letter will come to you, before you leave vernal Algeria. My best greeting to your husband and daughters.
Yours gratefully and affectionately
It would be easy to go on like this and demonstrate many cuts and drastic reformulations in many letters, but that would take us too far. The letter provided here must be one example among many. In this connection one is tempted to quote H. Topsøe-Jensen, our best editor of Andersen correspondences, who in an aside in his criticism of Edvard Collin's treatment of Andersen texts fires the following volley at Elith Reumert's: “That this reprehensible procedure has had its adherents even today is proved by Elith Reumert's book H.C. Andersen og det Melchiorske Hjem (1924), a horrible example of reprehensible amateurism”33. That is plain speaking indeed!
During the years when I have been working on this edition, several letters have appeared at auctions. Each time the number of letters only known through Reumert's copies could happily be reduced, in that the editor was allowed to look at the letters offered for sale. And each time it appeared that there were several mistakes in the copy — conscious or unconscious — to be corrected, just as a considerable number of passages left out by Reumert could be restored to their proper place.
It also needs to be said that Reumert sometimes mixes up the letter text, combines parts from two letters into one. As an example of that may serve a letter from Dorothea Melchior to Andersen, dated Copenhagen 9 May 1872 (ER p. 177, here letters nos. 253 and 250, from 9 and 3 May 1872 respectively). In the last of these letters Dorothea Melchior comments on the “pin story”, which Andersen told about in letter no. 252, after which she goes on talk of a concert, where Vølvens Spaadom (the Völuspa) by Hartmann had its first performance in the Musical Society, and of the resumed series of lectures by Georg Brandes, which all of it makes part of her letter of 3 May (letter no. 250. The latter is one of the letters which Reumert left out. But unfortunately in his rendition of Dorothea Melchior's letter of 9 May 1872 (no. 253) he has refrained form including Dorothea Melchior's account of the famous battle between socialists, the military and the police, which had just be fought on the Common, and which she obviously did not witness herself, but about which she very well reproduces the mood of horror which spread in Copenhagen, as this mood could be perceived by a middle class-lady, who at the same time was busy managing a bazaar for charity, the proceeds of which were to go to impecunious fellow citizens! Here it must be recalled that the year before the same lady had read alarming stories of the Communard Rising in Paris, of the starvation of the population during the sieges of the French metropolis, followed by the bloody crushing of the revolt by the government army. It seems absurd against this dark background that Mrs Melchior's greatest worry in this situation was that the young crown princess had refrained from sending her excuses for not attending an arranged “preview” of her bazaar for sailors before it was opened to the public.
Earlier in this introduction it was mentioned that there still are a number of letters that we only know in Reumert's version of them. The shortcomings of most of his copies of letters just mentioned suggest that we should be cautious in using his book.
It cannot be denied that several critical remarks about Elith Reumert and his treatment of the letters in the Melchior book have been made above, but — as has repeatedly been underlined — his primary intention was to write a book about the friendship between Hans Christian Andersen and the Melchior family, not to issue a collection of letters. This may be an additional reason why he provided “linking passages”, to fill out holes in the correspondence caused by the fact that both parties were in Copenhagen at the same time and thus had no need to exchange letters. This only happened during the last period of the poet's life, marked by his illness, where the foot post or another messenger had to deliver messages to the Melchiors about an appointment, which could not be kept. The content of these linking passages Reumert primarily found in the poet's diaries, which Louise Melchior lent him together with the letters. So his book can still be read as a coherent narrative, and it provides sound information about this friendship, the way it developed and its nature.
Other correspondences — meant as editions of letters — have followed the same principle, so that passages are inserted to link the various groups of letters. This is true e.g. of H. Topsøe-Jensen's edition of the correspondence with Henriette Wulff (1959) and Kirsten Dreyer's edition of the letters exchanged between Andersen and Jonas Collin, Jr. (2001) and Signe Læssøe and her circle (2005). In other editions it has been decided to let the letters speak for themselves, only arranging them chronologically. This applies e.g. to Carl Behrend and H. Topsøe-Jensen's large edition of the correspondence with Henriette and Edvard Collin (1933-37), to Topsøe-Jensen's edition of the correspondence with Jonas Collin, Sen. (1945-48) and it also applies to Kirsten Dreyer's edition of the letters to and from Lucie and B. S. Ingemann.
The present editor has chosen to give the letters as pure text and thus without linking passages. The periods in between, which are not covered by letters, are not of particularly long duration, and moreover they are often well covered in the letters themselves, which in many cases contain passages relating what has happened and what is expected to happen in the future. And the commentaries may perhaps also, because of their multitude, to some extent make up for the lack of linking passages.
Finally, nowadays we have above all the complete and quite indispensable edition of Andersen's diaries at our disposal, if we want to include everything. The editor willingly acknowledges his great debt to this edition. In it he has been able to find innumerable pieces of information, which make up a fair proportion of the volume of the commentaries.
As appears from the reprints of original letters from Hans Christian Andersen and Dorothea Melchior on p. 405 and p. 408, the script they used is not really difficult to decipher, provided one can read gothic script. Over the years Andersen's script became somewhat slovenly, which to no small extent came to characterize the endings of his words. It is not always possible to determine with any certainty if a word ends in —e, -en, -er, or even -erne etc., but these problems can usually be solved by looking at the “doubtful” words in their verbal context. As far as the letters c and k are concerned, in numerous cases it cannot be determined whether Andersen intended one or the other, just as it may be difficult to determine whether he wanted to use an ordinary letter or a capital. Also for the letters d and D it is often impossible to determine if Andersen intended a capital letter or not. In many cases he indeed used a small initial letter, where we would expect a capital, e.g. in the case of nouns. However, all these things are just trifles, which the editor has allowed himself to interpret in accordance with the usage of the time and the orthography which Andersen — and his contemporaries — normally used without making special mention of the fact.
Missing letters or words have been supplemented in brackets [ ], and where there are holes in the paper I have also attempted to reconstruct what may be presumed to have been written there, in some cases using Andersen's own spelling. In [ ] the editor has also indicated what must be a crossing out, addition over / under the line or in the margin. In [ ] the editor has likewise noted e.g. addresses, if any, which are then noted in considerable distance from the text. However, there are not many of these, for in most cases the letters were sent in envelopes.
Envelopes have been preserved in considerable numbers (in private collections), unfortunately isolated from the letters which they once “transported” from sender to recipient. It would be tempting to “reunite” envelope and letter, but the stamps of the envelopes are sometimes so unclear that one might make mistakes in such attempts. Incidentally it is interesting to see how the envelopes are sometimes supplied with stamps from several towns. Through these one may, as it were, follow the letters on their way in their “hunt” for the town he or she left somewhere, stating whereto mail could be forwarded.
Only in very few cases has it been necessary to correct the letter writers and supply the word or words which should rightly have been used to enable readers to understand what they wanted to say. And as a rule it is true about this correspondence that the orthography and punctuation used is that of the writers. That kind of thing has not been changed, even in cases where an editor might be tempted to do so, in the interest of clarity. In this connection it should not be forgotten that the time had a very relaxed attitude to orthography and punctuation.
Underlined words are here rendered in italics, and “forgotten” half citation marks or parentheses have been quietly supplied without any note being made of the fact.
Finally it must once more be underlined that both Hans Christian Andersen and Dorothea Melchior had a very large correspondence to attend to. The completion of this and the repayment of their “letter debt” — not to each other, but to others of their correspondents — was a constant problem to them. No wonder, then, that sometimes serious misspellings and strange cases of punctuation occurred.
3. Danish titles without exact English equivalents have been kept, but are explained here. Geheimekonferensråd: ca.= Privy Councillor; given to important civil servants; Etatsraad: originally Privy Councillor — at Andersen's time a courtesy title; justitsråd: originally a title for members of the Supreme Court — at Andersen's time a courtesy title. tilbage
14. Sophie Melchior: Lejlighedsting (manuscript, written 1875 by the Sophie Melchior frequently mentioned in the correspondence, a cousin of the Melchior children, and given to Augusta Melchior for her confirmation; now in the Cotson Children's Library, Princeton University). tilbage
15. In the first half of the 19th century Rolighed was owned by the couple General J. H. Hegermann and the author Louise Lindencrone (later Hegermann-Lindencrone). In summer they would assemble a circle of belles esprits, such as Steffens, the Ørsted brothers, Oehlenschläger, Ingemann, Mynster and Sibbern besides Mrs Gyllembourg and Carl Bernhard. In the first years after they had bought it, the Melchior family preserved the house as it was, but in 1869-70 (while Dorothea Melchior was staying with three daughters in Algeria and the family was virtually dispersed to all corners of the world it was considerably expanded and rebuilt, acquiring a style reminiscent of the Royal Renaissance castle of Rosenborg. After the death of the Melchior couple (1884-85) the children, who lived longest, kept Rolighed till into the 1890s. By then the surroundings had changed beyond recognition. Tenement houses and industrial buildings were mushrooming all around, and when the costal railway and the free harbour were to be built, Rolighed would be cut off from any connection with the Sound. At the initiative of the French born painter, Joseph Aneelin, who was married to a Dane, a memorial plaque was put up on 4 August 1927at the building 16 Gl. Kalkbrænderivej, stating that this was where the Rolighed where Hans Christian Andersen died, used to be, and the final lines of his poem “Rolighed” are quoted. tilbage
23. According to the register of taxpayersfor Copenhagen in the years around 1870, Moritz G. Melchior was taxed for an income of 35,000 rigsdaler, which was a considerable income, but he was not — as sometimes stated in the Andersen literature — the wealthiest man in Copenhagen. At that time this position was taken up by lensgreve (approx. earl or marquess) and konseilspræsident (prime minister) E. E. Frijs with a yearly income of 250,000 rigsdaler, and among the nabobs also the merchant Ole B. Suhr, of the House of Suhr, figures with 100,000 rigsdaler. The brothers Moses and Israel B. Melchior, who were partners (called associés) in the firm Moses & Søn G. Melchior, had incomes of respectively 18,000 and 13,000 rigsdaler, and Dorothea Melchior's brother, Martin, was taxed of an income of 12,000 rigsdaler. For the sake of comparison: Hans Christian Andersen's taxable income was set at 2,000 rigsdaler, which, however, was rather low, in that in addition to his yearly public stipend as writer of 1,000 rigsdaler, he received about 1,400 rigsdaler per year in fees from C.A. Reitzel Publishers. Perhaps Moritz G. Melchior's income, too, should have been assessed at a somewhat higher level than the 35,000 rigsdaler? tilbage
24. The size of the establishment can be seen from the so-called police censuses, which householders sent in every year in May and November. As “staff” Moritz G. Melchior mentioned 7 or 8 people, beginning with the housekeeper, Miss Stenholdt. Compared to the occupant of the flat above him, Carl Ploug, editor, and below him, Heinrich Hirschsprung, the merchant, the number of staff in the Melchior family was about twice as large as in the other families. tilbage
27. Martin R. Henriques' letters to Hans Christian Andersen have been given to the Royal Library, where they are kept together with Andersen's letters to the family (in the collection: Ny kgl. Samling, 4681, 4). tilbage
29. B. Jonas Collin, p. 158. [?? opret note: 26. One of the lists preserved is dated 1935, and considering that Louise Melchior died on 15 November 1934, it seems very reasonable that her estate would not have been wound up till somewhat into 1935.] tilbage
30. One of the heirs, the niece Helga Carla Melchior, has given a colourful description of her clearing out of the flat at Højbroplads after her aunt's death, cf. “Tante Helga fortæller”, 1973-74, p. 3. tilbage
32. Indeed the editor of this correspondence must admit that in the letters here edited in their entirety, there is a considerable amount of small talk, which neither “elucidates” nor “teaches”, however, this small talk, too, contributes to drawing a picture of the milieu and the time that the letters hail from. And it is debatable whether there would be any advantage in leaving out this or that piece of information from the circle around the Melchior family or any of the many greetings forwarded by the letter writer to the recipient. Even H. Topsøe-Jensen and Carl Behrend in their large edition of Andersen's correspondence with Edvard and Henriette Collin (BEC VI, p. 9) did that, but from the point of view that Dorothea Melchior was convinced that such messages, too — and every greeting — would interest Hans Christian Andersen, the editor has refrained from making any sort of abridgement. tilbage