Lars Bo Jensen has provided the answers on this page with assistance from Johan de Mylius, Solveig Brunholm and Odense City's Museums. It was originally created for www.hca2005.com, which no longer exists. The main part of the questions were created by Mikkel Stjernberg at HCA2005, and some have been added by web visitors. Read answers to more questions in our FAQ. /Lars Bo Jensen 14/3/2006
Out here at Bregentved, we get "Albani-Beer", which is doubtless from Odense, but arrives from Copenhagen I think from a big beer store at Larslai Lane. The Countess and I drink it and I cannot praise this beer enough. It is not as strong as the porter Miss Anna drinks and does not have the alcoholic taste of Bavarian beer. It is refreshing, good-tasting and strong.
My boots, which have shrunk from the seawater and much too narrow, my corns oh, it was complete torture and yet I had to go on!
HCA read quite a lot Danish as well as other literature. It would almost be easier to list what he did not read. However, to mention just some of the most important works:
He read Holberg even as a child. As part of his education, he read such classical authors as Horace and Aristophanes. Among his most important models and sources of inspiration were (from England) Walter Scott and William Shakespeare, (from Germany) E.T.A. Hoffmann, Heinrich Heine, Jean Paul, Ludwig Tieck, Adelbert von Chamisso and Johann Wolfgang Goethe and, among Danish authors, Adam Oehlenschläger and Steen Steensen Blicher.
In addition, a number of very significant authors may be mentioned – for example, (from England) Lord Byron, Charles Dickens and Captain Marryat, (from France) Alfred de Vigny and Alexandre Dumas the Elder, (from Sweden) Fredrika Bremer, Atterbom and Bellman and (from Denmark) Hans Adolph Brorson, Jens Baggesen, Christian Winther, Carsten Hauch, Henrik Hertz, Johan Ludvig Heiberg, Frederik Paludan-Müller, Carl Bagger, Carl Bernhard, B.S. Ingemann, Thomasine Gyllembourg, Søren Kierkegaard, among others.
Mendelssohn, Rossini, J.P.E. Hartmann, Johannes Brahms, Liszt, Wagner, C.E.F. Weyse, Robert Schumann, Ludwig Spohr, Henrik Rung, Niels W. Gade, H.C. Lumbye, Edvard Grieg, Richard Wagner.
Probably all:Danish, alphabetically:
- Bredal, Ivar Fr. (1800-64)
- Gade, Niels W. (1817-90)
- Glæser, Franz (1798-1861)
- Hammerich, Asger (1843-1923)
- Hartmann, J.P.E. (1805-1900)
- Heise, Peter (1830-79)
- Helsted, Edvard (1816-1900)
- Holm, Vilhelm (1820-86)
- Horneman, C.F.E. (1840-1906)
- Kuhlau, Fr. (1786-1832)
- Liebmann, Axel (1849-76)
- Lumbye, H.C. (1810-74)
- Matthison-Hansen, Gottfred (1832-1909)
- Paulli, H.S. (1810-91)
- Rung, Henrik (1807-71)
- Weyse, C.E.F. (1774-1842)
- Brahms, Johannes (1833-97, German)
- Cherubini, Luigi (1760-1842, Italian-French)
- Dreyschock, Alexander (1818-69, Czech)
- Grieg, Edvard (1843-1907, Norwegian)
- Henselt, Adolf (1814-89, German)
- Hgg, J. A. (1850-1928, Swedish)
- Josephson, Jacob Axel (1818-80, Swedish)
- Kalkbrenner, Friedrich (1788-1849, German-French)
- Lachner, Ignaz (1807-95, German)
- Lindblad, Adolf Fredrik (1801-78, Swedish)
- Liszt, Franz (1811-86, Hungarian)
- Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix (1809-47, German)
- Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791-1864, German-French)
- Rossini, Giacomo (1792-1868, Italian)
- Schmitt, Aloys (1788-1866, German)
- Schumann, Robert (1810-56, German)
- Spohr, Ludwig (1784-1859, German)
- Verhulst, J.J.H. (1816-91, Dutch)
- Wagner, Richard (1813-83, German)
- Weber, Carl Maria (1786-1826, German)
Like many others at the time, Hans Christian Andersen was fascinated by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
He knew and valued privy council minister Count Conrad Rantzau-Breitenburg (1773-1845), who was behind the royal decree that provided Andersen with an annual grant of 400 rigsdaler. HCA visited the count several times at his manor home in Breitenburg and dedicated the section on Italy of his travelogue En Digters Bazar, Poets Bazaar (1842) to him, the friend of his youth Orla Lehmann (1810-70), who became a highly prominent liberal politician, and King Christian VIII (1786-1848, king from 3 December 1839 to 20 February 1848).
"I have a daily little quarrel with Ingemann on the significance of inventions, as he places poetry far above science, but not I. He admits that our time is a time of great inventions, but it is only with respect to the mechanical, the material, that things are burgeoning; I consider them the necessary bearers of the spiritual, the great stalks upon which poetry may place its flowers."
(From a letter to Henriette Wulff)
Yes, he loved children. His special understanding of their way of thinking and acting is displayed in his fairy tales. However, he did not like to have children sitting on his lap, when he read aloud. A quotation from a letter HCA wrote to little Charlotte (Charlotte Melchior 1871-1926) on 23 April 1875 shows a little of how vital and child-like he was with children:
Here in Copenhagen, hail fell like cabbage heads and the snow came down in such drifts that I thought: Charlotte must be plucking all the white chickens in Køge and throwing them up into the clouds so that the feathers would drift down on Højbro Square, Nyhavn and everywhere there were people thinking of Charlotte.
(Bille and Bøgh: Letters from Hans Christian Andersen, Aschehoug 2000, p. 921)
The letter was signed "Your friend H.C. Andersen".
No. His struggle to become an artist required much courage and resolution. In addition, his ascent of Vesuvius on 24 February 1834 above the glowing lava illustrates his sometimes fearless personality:
In order to look into the firestorm of the volcano, they had to go out onto the crust of the lava flow from the day before:
It was terrible that is, horrendous. The crust burned us through our boots, so we could hardly stand it and there were fissures, incredibly long, that we had to cross and we could only see red fire in them; had the crust broken, we would have sunk into a sea of fire. A couple of yards from us, the red lava rushed like a waterfall down the mountain. Fire and large stones flowed from the crater and trickled down the cone. The sulfur fumes were suffocating, and, since the earth was burning beneath us, we could only stand there for 2 minutes; I felt my life was in Gods hands and was giddy from rapture."
(Addendum dated 25 February in a letter to Henriette Wulff)
So-so. He never experienced requited love for a woman. He was an awkward and tentative suitor. So tentative that many have believed he was homosexual. However, there were a number of women who found him attractive. On a trip to Jutland in 1830, he wrote in a letter to his friend Edvard Collin:
... a lady who openly declared her love for me would undoubtedly lose face in my eyes. I don?t care much for highly-strung ladies, even if they are pining for me.
Throughout his life, he was idolized as a successful artist. In 1835 (once again, in a letter to Edvard Collin), he says that young ladies, all of whom have read about Lara and Flaminia in his breakthrough novel The Improvisatore, "flock around the author."
In 1845, he dined at the court of Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, where he was a great success. In his biography "The Life of Hans Christian Andersen: Day by Day" (Aschehoug 1998), Johan de Mylius has written for 17 December 1845, that "Hans Christian Andersen is the big draw in Berlin social life – and he knows it himself, playing hard to get. A number of artists and cultural personalities have been invited to come and meet HCA, but he is absent from the party."
Painter Caroline Bardua's sister, Wilhelmine, noted in her diary: "The writer Andersen's presence puts everyone from the court on down into a flurry – he is the man of the hour." In her diary, Wilhelmine Bardua described HCA as "extraordinarily talkative, punctuating his speech with lively gesticulations" and says that he "looks rather well."
Mylius writes of Anna Bjerring (for 5 July 1857):
This is the first mention in a diary of Anna Bjerring – at that point a 25-year teacher from Ålborg. (...) A lifelong correspondence developed between these two and they had several personal meetings. There is no doubt that she was in love with HCA and did what she could to get him. Upon her death (1902), she took HCA's letters to the grave with her!
Se, hist på skrænten står en lang person
med ansigtet så blegt, som salig Werther,
og med en næse, stor som en kanon,
og øjne bitte små, som grønne ærter.
Han synger noget tysk med et "woher?"
og stirrer derpå ud i vesterlide.
Hvorfor mon han vel står så længe der?
Ja Herre Gud! man kan ei alting vide;
dog er det sikkert, har jeg rigtigt set,
en gal, en elsker, eller en poet.
[See, on the cliff, stands a tall person
With a face as pale as blessed Werther,
And a nose as big as a canon,
And eyes as tiny as small green peas.
He's singing something German with a "woher?"
And from there stares out westward.
Why does he so long there stand guard?
Lord! You can't know it all,
But one thing is sure, I have seen
A madman, a lover or a bard.]
For the most part, Hans Christian Andersen improvised his songs – both text and melody. His first encounter with poetry was through a neighbor (at Munkemøllestræde in Odense), Mrs. Bunkeflod, whose late husband Pastor Hans Christian Bunkeflod had, among other things, written songs. He sang with Mrs. Bunkeflod, but whether he sang these songs is unknown.
At Odense Theater in 1813, he saw Ferdinand Kauer's operetta The Danube Maidens. He began to sing melodies from The Danube Maidens with his own homemade texts, put together from Danish and German words. He took to performing the piece at home, "–despite the fact that I did not know more than two German words 'Schwester' and 'Bruder'" (The Book of My Life).
Later, he undoubtedly learned the text but still used his own melodies. When he arrived in Copenhagen to seek his fortune, he sought out the ballerina Anne Margrethe Schall and performed on the spot a portion of the female leading role in the ballad opera "Cendrillon or The Little Glass Slipper," which he had seen twice at the theater in Odense. He had never read the piece and improvised both text and melody. He danced in his stocking feet and used his hat as a tambourine. It was not a success...
As an adult, he sometimes sang the following, alone or before an audience, accompanied by a piano:
- The barcarole from Hérold's ballad opera "Marie"
- Kong Christian [King Christian]
- Te voglio bene assaje (Neapolitan folk song)
- Kong Frederik den Sjette [King Frederik VI] (Danmark, deiligst Vang og Vænge)
- Lille Viggo [Little Viggo]
Hans Christian Andersen himself had written text to the latter three. He called "Te voglio", "Kong Frederik den Sjette" and "Gurre" his "show horses" (Diaries II, p. 195).
That is not easy to answer quickly, but his works have become more widespread than any other author ever (only the Bible has been translated into more languages). He is read by Chinese students in school and, on the whole, is well-known and appreciated in China and Japan.
One might say that, like the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), he had the special knack of turning ideas into tales – in a particularly Nordic, melancholy and, at the same time, witty way. His fairy tales are philosophical, told with amazing narrative joy and sparkling imagination in beautiful, elegant language.
It is different from, for example, French philosophy, which is not supposed to be funny, or folktales, which relate myths rather than philosophy and have none of Andersen's finesse. His fairy tales also have the special quality of being able to speak to children and adults alike, from two different levels in the text.
He was generous. Afraid of fire. Had a few anxieties, but nevertheless journeyed fearlessly out into the world, which was a dangerous undertaking at that time. His entire early career required tremendous bravery. He travelled to Copenhagen as a 14-year old with virtually no money or connections.
He was vain and so sensitive that those around him (particularly, the somewhat dry Collin family) sometimes found him ridiculous and intolerable. This was not the case with the more cosmopolitan Melchior family or other open-minded spirits, such as H. C. Ørsted, B.S. Ingemann, Bertel Thorvaldsen, and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, among others.