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Hans Christian Andersen – FAQ
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Hans Christian Andersen – FAQ

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Homosexuality

- Since in 1901 the Danish homosexual writer, Carl Albert Hansen Fahlberg, under the name of Albert Hansen published an article in Magnus Hirschfeld's journal Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen entitled: "Hans Christian Andersen: Beweis seiner Homosexualität", the theory that Andersen was homosexual has surfaced from time to time. The most thorough descriptions of Andersen the man and analyses of his work that have their origin in the theory of homosexuality is Heinrich Detering's chapter on Andersen in his book Das offene Geheimnis. Zur literarischen Produktivität eines Tabus von Winckelmann bis zu Thomas Mann (Göttingen, 1994. The book has one of Andersen's paper cuts on the front of the cover!), Allison Prince's biography Hans Christian Andersen. The Fan Dancer (London 1998) and Jackie Wullschlager's biography, Hans Christian Andersen. The Life of a Storyteller (London and New York 2001, Danish ed. 2002). This book in 2002 gained the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen prize of Odense City of 50,000 euro.

Wullschlager, who speaks of Edvard Collin (of all people!) as Andersen's "lover", maintains the following in a long footnote (p. 382): "The silence of Danish commentators, from Andersen's own time until the present day, on the subject of his homosexual relationships, is remarkable. Andersen's diaries leave no doubt that he was attracted to both sexes; that at times he longed for a physical relationship with a woman and that at other times he was involved in physical liaisons with men [JdM's italics].

Nevertheless, the matter has been discussed several times in Denmark, for example in Elias Bredsdorff's biography of Hans Christian Andersen (1974) and in Johan de Mylius's H.C. Andersen. Liv og værk 1805 - 1875 (H.C. Andersen, Life and Work) (1993, new edition 1998 with the title H.C. Andersens liv. Dag for dag (H.C. Andersen's Life. Day by Day). The latter has furnished documentation for things that speak for very warm feelings indeed from Andersen for Henrik Stampe and Harald Scharff (on a poem by the latter, see also the introduction to Johan de Mylius's edition of Andersen's Samlede digte (Collected poems) 2000). Andersen's very strong (but altogether platonic, also entirely asexual and, in addition, unreciprocated) feelings in his youth for Edvard Collin and Ludvig Müller are well-known.

It must be stressed that there is no evidence to support the idea that Andersen should ever have had what Wullschlager calls "physical liaisons" with men. It is likewise doubtful whether he ever had physical contact with a woman - in spite of several visits to brothels.

It might be said that Andersen's feelings did not have any gender. His sexuality indeed did (as appears from many passages in almanacs and diaries, for example in the diary from 11 July 1842: "Sensual, a passion of the blood, which was almost animal, a wild urge for a woman to kiss and embrace just as when I was in the Mediterranean", an exclamation, which no homosexual would make). To a large extent, Andersen was a spiritually androgynous person or, as Søren Kierkegaard put it in Af en endnu Levendes Papirer (1838; Early Polemical Writings 1990): he is "like those flowers where the male and the female sit on one stalk").

To conclude, it is correct to point to the very ambivalent (and also very traumatic) elements in Andersen's emotional life concerning the sexual sphere, but it is decidedly just as wrong to describe him as homosexual and maintain that he had physical relationships with men. He did not. Indeed that would have been entirely contrary to his moral and religious ideas, aspects that are quite outside the field of vision of Wullschlager and her like.