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The Hans Christian Andersen Center

A Short Chronology of HCA's Life

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1805:
Hans Christian Andersen born in Odense on 2 April. Place of birth unknown. His father was a poor shoemaker and his mother a washerwoman. The family did not have a permanent address until 1807.

1812:
First visit to the theatre in Odense - the boy's fantasies begin to assume shape and direction.

1816:
Father dies of an illness he contracted when he enlisted as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812-14. Mother re-marries in 1818.

1819:
A few months after his confirmation HCA travels alone to Copenhagen to try his luck at The Royal Theatre. Under extremely humble conditions he attempts during the following three years to gain a foothold at the theatre as a singer, dancer or actor. Influential people take care of him and arrange for him to get some education, as his schooling has been much neglected.

1822:
As a final, desperate measure, HCA hands in a couple of plays to the theatre. They are turned down, but the management want to soften the blow and arrange for him to go to a school in Slagelse. Theatre manager and financial deputy Jonas Collin becomes his guardian.

1826:
When the Slagelse principal, Simon Meisling, is moved to Elsinore Grammar School, HCA follows suit. Here he writes his famous poem 'The dying Child', under the influence of his highly problematic relationship to Meisling.

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1827:
Collin takes HCA's complaints seriously, and takes him away from Meisling's school. HCA is now privately tutored for his upper secondary school leaving examination in Copenhagen. In the same year HCA also gets a number of poems published in the leading literary journal of the day, Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post. 'The dying Child' appears in both Danish and German versions.

1828:
Andersen passes his leaving examination at Copenhagen University and matriculates there. He takes the examination which entitles him to begin his studies (philologicum) and passes his philosophicum examination the following year.

1829:
Makes his official debut with his first prose work, the E.T.A. Hofmannesque fantasy Fodreise (= journey on foot, walking tour), and first play, Kjærlighed paa Nicolai Taarn (= love in Nicholas' tower). Both are a success.

1831:
First important collection of poems; trip to Germany, where he meets the poets Ludwig Tieck in Dresden and Adalbert von Chamisso in Berlin. After his return he publishes his first travel account, Skyggebilleder (= silhouettes).

1832:
Librettos for a singspiel and an opera. Writes his first autobiography, which is destined to remain unpublished (and unknown) until 1926.

1833-34:
Uses a scholarship to travel on his great educative journey via Germany to France and Italy, where, in the colony of artists in Rome, he becomes a close friend of the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

1835:
Publishes his first novel, Improvisatoren (= the improvisatore), and his first two booklets with Eventyr, fortalte for Børn (= fairy tales, told for children). In the following years he wrote a number of plays and two novels, O. T. and Kun en Spillemand (= Only a Fiddler). The novels were soon translated into German - and later into Swedish, Dutch, english and other languages.

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1837:
First trip to Sweden, where HCA makes the acquaintance of the authoress Fredrika Bremer. After a visit to Copenhagen, the French homme de lettres Xavier Marmier writes a biographical article on HCA that includes a French translation of 'The dying Child'. The article, 'Une vie de poète', appears in Revue de Paris and has a decisive influence on HCA becoming a known literary figure in Europe, since it is reprinted, translated and quoted in several countries.

1838:
Søren Kierkegaard makes a direct attack on HCA as a novelist in his first book Af en endnu Levendes Papirer (= from the papers of one still living) (a review of Kun en Spillemand). In the same year, HCA's finances are stabilized, as he is granted the standard royal literary scholarship.

1840:
Success at The Royal Theatre with the play Mulatten ( The Mulatto), which is also put on in Stockholm and in his native city of Odense, as well as by privately touring theatre companies. Goes in the same year on a large European and Oriental journey. On his travels he makes the acquaintance of Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

1842:
His travel account En Digters Bazar (= A Poet's Bazaar), with the famous chapters on the railway and on a concert with Franz Liszt.

1843:
New series of fairy tale booklets begun, this time without the subtitle 'fortalte for Børn'. Falls in love with the Swedish singer Jenny Lind.

1844:
Close friendship with the hereditary GrandDuke Carl Alexander von Sachsen-Weimar, who wants to have HCA installed as a new Goethe in Weimar.

1845:
HCA's novels begin to appear in English translation.

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1847:
HCA's collected works begin to appear in Germany, introduced by his first official autobiography. In the same year The True Story of My Life appears in English. First trip to England and Scotland, where HCA is feted everywhere and makes the acquaintance of Charles Dickens.

1848:
First fairy tales are published in French.

1849:
First play put on at the new, popular theatre Casino, where HCA has great, long-running successes in the following years.

1851:
Travel account I Sverrig (= In Sweden), containing his poetical credo (a blend of poetry, religion and science). Is made a titular professor.

1852:
First collection with the title Historier (5 stories) instead of Eventyr.

1853:
The Danish edition of Samlede Skrifter (= collected works) begins to appear. Includes (1855) a revised version of the autobiography Mit Livs Eventyr (The Fairy Tale of My Life).

1857:
Second trip to England, where HCA stays at Dickens' for a month.

1858:
HCA reads aloud from his fairy tales for the first time at the newly-established (middle-class organised) Workers' Association. He appears here about 20 times in subsequent years, often reading to audiences of 500-900.

1862-63:
Trip to Spain. Travel account I Spanien (= In Spain) published in 1863.

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1866:
Trip to Portugal. Travel account Et Besøg i Portugal (= A Visit to Portugal) published in 1868.

1867:
Made titular Councillor of State and later Honorary Citizen of Odense. Great celebration of HCA in his native city.

1868:
Publishes the story 'The Dryad' about the world exposition in Paris in 1867. Gets to know the young literary critic Georg Brandes, who writes a major, seminal article about HCA the following year in Illustreret Tidende.

1870:
HCA's sixth (and last) novel, Lykke-Peer (Lucky Peer).

1871:
Trip to Norway.

1872:
Publishes his last fairy tales.

1874:
Is made 'konferensråd' (a high Danish title, now obsolete).

1875:
After several years of serious illness, HCA dies on 4 August at 'Rolighed', the country seat of the Jewish merchant family Melchior. The Melchiors had taken care of him during the final period of his life.

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