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From Howitt's Journal
MEMOIR OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN.
BY MARY HOWITT.
Ar the moment when Hans Christian An-ly twenty, he married a young girl about as dersen is in this country, we believe that poor as himself. The poverty of this couwe cannot present to our readers a more ple may be imagined from the circumstance acceptable gift than an excellent portrait that the house afforded no better bedstead and memoir of this extraordinary, man. than a wooden frame made to support the Whether regarded as the human being, as- coffin of some count in the neighborhood, serting in his own person the true nobility whose body lay in state before his interof mind and moral worth, or the man of ment. This frame, covered with black genius, whose works alone have raised him cloth, and which the young shoemaker purfrom the lowest poverty and obscurity, to chased at a very low price, served as the be an honored guest with kings and queens, family bedstead many years.
Upon this Hans Christian Andersen is one of the most humble bed was born, on the second of remarkable and interesting men of his day. April, 1805, Hans Christian Andersen.
Like most men of great original talent, The father of Andersen was not without he is emphatically one of the people ; and education; his mother was the kindest of writing, as he has done, principally of popu- human beings; they lived on the best terms lar life, he describes what he himself has with each other, but still the husband was suffered and seen. Poverty or hardship, not happy. He read comedies and the however, never soured his mind; on the Arabian Tales, and made a puppet theatre contrary, whatever he has written is singu- for his little son, and often on Sundays larly genial, and abounds with the most took him out with him into the woods kindly and universal sympathy. Human round Odense, where the solitude was conlife, with all its trials, privations, and its genial to his mind. tears, is to him a holy thing; he lays bare Andersen's grandmother had also great the heart, not to bring forth hidden and re- influence over him, and to her he was greatly volting passions or crimes, but to show how attached. She was employed in taking care lovely it is in its simplicity and truth; how of a garden belonging to a lunatic asylum, touching in its weaknesses and its short- and here he spent most of the summer aftercomings; how much it is to be loved and noons of his early childhood. pitied, and borne and striven with. In Among his earliest recollections is the short, this great writer, with all the ardor of residence of the Spaniards in Funen, in the a strong poetical nature, and with great years 1808 and 1809. A soldier of an Astupower in delineating passion, is eminently rian regiment took him one day in his Christian in spirit.
arms, danced with him amid tears of joy, It is a great pleasure to me that I have which no doubt were called forth by the been the means of making the principal remembrance of a child he had left at home, works of Hans Christian Andersen known, and pressed the Madonna to his lips, which through my translations, to the British pub- occasioned great trouble to his pious molic; they have been well received by them, ther, who was a Lutheran. and I now hasten to give our readers a slight In Odense at that time many old festivimemoir of their author, drawn from the ties were still in use, which made a deep True Story of his own Life, sent by him to impression upon the boy, and were as so me, for translation, and which is just now much material laid up in his richly poetical published by the Messrs. Longman. The mind for after use, as all who are familiar portrait which accompanies this was kindly with his works must be well aware. His faIent to us, for the use of our Journal, by ther, among other works, industriously read Carl Hartmann, a young German artist of in his Bible. One day he closed it with great promise, now residing at No. 7, Staf- these words: “Christ became a man like ford-row, Buckingham Gate, and who also unto us, but a very uncommon man!" at is a friend of the poet.
which his wife burst into tears, greatly disThe father of Hans Christian Andersen tressed and shocked at what she called was a shoemaker at Odense. When scarce-blasphemy." This made a deep impres
sion on the boy, and he prayed in secret for about in manuscript, and people laughed at the soul of his father. Another day his it, and ridiculed him as the “play-writer." father said, “ There is no other devil but This wounded him so deeply, that he
passwhat a man bears in his own breast !” After ed one whole night weeping, and was only which, finding his arm scratched one morn-pacified, or rather silenced, by his mother ing when he awoke, his wife said it was a threatening to give him a good beating for punishment of the devil, to teach him his bis folly. Spite, however, of his ill-sucreal existence.
cess, he wrote again and again, studying, The unhappy temper of the father in- among other devices, German and French creased from day to day; he longed to go words, to give dignity to his dialogue. forth into the world. At that time war was Again the whole town read his productions, raging in Germany. Napoleon was his and the boys shouted after him as he went, hero, and as Denmark had now allied itself “ Look! look! there goes the play-writo France, he enlisted as a private soldier ter !" in a recruiting regiment, hoping that some One day he took to his schoolmaster, as a time or other he might return as a lieuten- birthday present, a garland with which he ant. The neighbors, however, thought it had twisted up a little poem. The schoolwas a folly to let himself be shot for no pur- master was angry with him; he saw nothing pose at all. The corps in which he served but folly and false quantities in the verses, went no further than Holstein ; the peace and thus the poor lad had nothing but succeeded, and the poor shoemaker returned trouble and tears. to his trade, only chagrined to have seen no The worldly affairs of the mother grew service, nor even been in foreign lands. worse and worse, and as boys of his age But though he had seen no service, his bearned money in a manufactory near, it was health had suffered ; he awoke one morn- resolved that there also Hans Christian ing delirious, and talked about campaigns should be sent. His old grandmother took and Napoleon. Young Andersen, then him to the manufactory, and shed bitter nine years old, was sent to the next village tears because the lot of the boy was so early to ask counsel from a wise woman.
toil and sorrow. The workmen in the fac“Will my poor father die :” inquired he tory were principally German, and discoanxiously.
vering that Andersen had a fine voice, and “If thy father will die,” replied she, knew many popular songs, they made him “thou wilt meet his ghost on thy way sing to them while the other boys did his home.”
work. He knew himself that he had a good Terrified almost out of his senses lest he voice, because the neighbors always listened should meet the ghost, he set out on his when he sang at home, and once a whole homeward way, and reached his own door party of rich people had stopped to hear without any such apparition presenting it- him, and had praised his beautiful voice. self; but for all that, his father died on the Everybody in the manufactory heard him third day.
with equal delight. From this time, young Andersen was left “I can act comedy as well !” said the to himself. The whole instruction that he poor boy one day, encouraged by their apever received, was in a charity school, and plause, and began to recite whole scenes consisted of reading, writing, and arithme- from the comedies which his father had tic, but of the two last he knew scarcely any- been in the habit of reading. The workthing.
men were delighted, and the other boys About this time, he was engaged by a were made to do his tasks while he amused widow of a clergyman in Odense, to read them all. This smooth life of comedy aloud to herself and her sister-in-law. She acting and singing lasted but for a short was the widow of a clergyman who had time, and he returned home. written poems.
In this house Andersen “ The boy must go and act at the thefirst heard the appellation of poet; and saw atre !" many of the neighbors said to his with what love the poetical talent of the mother ; but as she knew of no other deceased pastor was regarded. This sank theatre than that of the strolling players, deeply into his mind; he read tragedies, she shook her head, and resolved rather resolved to become a poet, as this good man to put her son apprentice to a tailor. had been before him.
He was now twelve, and had nothing to He wrote a tragedy, therefore, which the do ; he devoured, therefore, the contents of two ladies praised highly; it was handed every book which came in his way. His Vol. XII. No. II.
favorite reading was an old prose trans- house, and after she had read the cards, lation of Shakspeare. From this, with and studied the coffee-grounds, she prolittle figures which he made of pasteboard, nounced these words : he performed the whole of King Lear, and "Your son will become a great man. the Merchant of Venice.
The city of Odense will one day be illumiAndersen's passion for reading, and his nated in his honor." beautiful voice, had in the meantime drawn A prophecy like this removed all doubts. upon him the attention of several of the "Go in God's name !" said his mother, higher families of the city, who introduced and lie lost no time in preparing for his him to their houses. His simple, child- great journey. like behavior, his wonderful memory, and Someone had mentioned to him a his sweet voice, gave to him a peculiar certain female dancer at the Royal Theatre charm ; people talked of him, and he soon as a person of great influence; he obtained, had many friends; among others, a therefore, from a gentleman universally Colonel Guldborg, brother to the well-esteemed in Odense a letter of introduction known poet of that name, and who after- to this lady ; and with this, and his thirteen wards introduced him to Prince Christian of rix-dollars, he commenced the journey on Denmark.
which depended his whole fate. His About this time his mother married a mother accompanied him to the city gate, second time, and as the step-father would and there his good old grandmother met not spend a penny, or do anything for her him; she kissed him with many tears, son's education, he had still more leisure, blessed him, and he never saw her more. He had no play-fellows, and often wandered It was not until he had crossed the Great by himself to the neighboring forest, or Belt that he felt how forlorn he was in the seated himself at home, in a corner of the world; he stepped aside from the road, house, and dressed up little dolls for his fell on his knees, and besought God to be theatre, his mother in the meantime think- bis friend. He rose up comforted, and ing that, as he was destined for a tailor, walked on through towns and villages, this was all good practice.
until on Monday morning, the 5th of SepAt length the time came when he was to tember, 1819, he saw the towers of Copenbe confirmed. On this occasion he had his hagen ; and with his little bundle under first pair of boots ; he was very vain of his arm, he entered that great city. them, and that all the world might see On the day after his arrival, dressed in them, he pulled them over his trousers. his confirmation-suit, he betook himself, An old sempstress was employed to make with his letter of introduction in his hand, him a confirmation-suit out of his deceased to the house of the all-potential dancer. father's great coat. Never before had he The lady allowed him to wait a long time been possessed of such excellent clothes ; on the steps of her house, and when at the very thoughts of them disturbed his de- length he entered, his awkward, simple votions on the day of consecration. behavior and appearance displeased her;
It had been determined that Andersen she fancied him insane, more particularly was to be apprenticed to a tailor after his as the gentleman from whom he brought confirmation, but he earnestly besought his the letter was unknown to her. mother to give up this idea, and consent to He next went to the director of the his going to Copenhagen, that he might theatre, requesting some appointment. get employment at the theatre there. He " You are too thin for the theatre,” was read to her the lives of celebrated men the answer he obtained. who had been quite as poor as himself, and
“Oh,” replied Andersen, "only ensure assured her that he also would one day be me one hundred rix-dollars, and I will soon a celebrated man. For several years he get fat!” had been boarding up his money; he had
But the director would make no agreenow about thirty shillings, English, which ment of this kind, and then informed him seemed to him an inexhaustible sum. As that they engaged none at the theatre but soon as his mother heard of this fund, her people of education. This settled the heart inclined towards his wishes, and she question; he had nothing to say on his promised to consent on condition that they own behalf
, and dejected in spirit went out should consult a wise woman, and that his into the street.
He knew no human going or staying should be decided by her creature ; he thought of death, and this
The sibyl was fetched to the thought turned his mind to God. augury.
“When everything goes adversely,” and good man, Conference Counsellor said he, “then God will help me; it is Collin, who, perceiving the genius that written so in every book that I ever read, słumbered in the young poet, went immediand in God will I put my trust !” ately to the king, and obtained permission
Days and weeks went on, bringing with from him that he should be sent, at them nothing but disappointment and de-Government charges, to one of the learned spair ; bis money was all gone, and for schools in the provinces, in which, however, some time he worked with a joixer. At the suffered immensely, till his heart was length, as, with a heavy heart, he was almost broken by unkindness. From this walking one day along the crowded streets school he went to college, and became very of the city, it occurred to him that as yet soon favorably known to the public by nobody had heard his fine voice. Full of true poetical works. Ingemann, Oehlenthis thought, he hastened at once to the schläger, and others then obtained for him a house of Professor Siboni, where a large royal stipend, to enable him to travel ; and party happened to be at dinner, and among he visited Germany, France, Switzerland, the guests Baggesen, the poet, and the cele- and Italy. Italy, and the poetical characbrated composer, Professor Weyse. He ter of life in that beautiful country, inknocked at the door, which was opened by spired him; and he wrote the “Improvi-, a female servant, and to her he related, satore," one of the most exquisite works, quite open-heartedly, how forlorn and whether for truthful delineation of characfriendless he was, and how great a desire ter, or pure and noble sentiment, that ever he had to be engaged at the theatre; the was penned. This work most harmoniously young woman went in and related this to combines the warm coloring and intensity the company
All were interested in the of Italian life with the freshness and strong little adventurer; he was ordered in, and simplicity of the north. His romance of desired to sing, and to give some scenes" 0. T.' followed ; this is a true picture from Holberg. One of these scenes bore a of the secluded, sober life of the north, and resemblance to his own melancholy circum- is a great favorite there. His third work, stances, and he burst into tears. The “ Only a Fiddler,” is remarkable for its company applauded him.
strongly drawn personal and national cha“I prophesy,” said Baggesen, “that racteristics, founded upon his own experithou wilt turn out something remarkable ; ence in early life. Perhaps there never only don't beeome vain when the public was a more affecting picture of the hopeadmires thee."
less attempts of a genius of second-rate Professor Siboni promised immediately order to combat against and rise above that he would cultivate Andersen's voice, poverty and adverse circumstances, than is and that he should make his debut at the given in the life of poor Christian, who Theatre Royal. He had a good friend too dics at last “ only a fiddler. in Professor Weyse, and a year and a half In all these works Andersen has drawn were spent in elementary instruction. But from his own experience, and in this lies a new misfortune now befell him ; he lost their extraordinary power. There is a his beautiful voice, and Siboni counselled child-like tenderness and simplicity in his him to put himself to some handicraft writings; a sympathy with the poor and trade. He once more seemed abandoned the struggiing, and an elevation and to a hopeless fate. Casting about in his purity of tone, which have something absomind who might possibly befriend him, lutely holy about them; it is the inspiration he bethought himself of the poet Guldborg, of true genius, combined with great experiwhose brother the colonel had been so kind ence of life, and a spirit baptized with the to him in Odense. To him he went, and tenderness of Christianity. This it is in him he happily found a friend ; although which is the secret of the extreme charm of poverty still pursued him, and his sufferings his celebrated stories for children. They which no one knew almost overcame him. are as simple and as touching as the old
He wrote a rhymed tragedy, which ob- Bible narratives of Joseph and his brethren, tained some little praise from Oehlenschlä- and the little lad who died in the corn ger and Ingemann--but no debut was per- field. We wonder not at their being the mitted him on the theatre. He wrote a most popular books of their kind in second and third, but the theatre would Europe. not accept them. These youthful efforts It has been my happiness, as I said fell, however, into the hand of a powerful before, to translate his three principal
works, his Picture Book without Pictures, The number of strangers there, and the and several of his stories for children. presence of the Court, gave a peculiar They have likewise been translated into animation to it. The Danish flag was German, and some of them into Dutch, seen waving, and music was heard on all and even Russian. ' He speaks nobly of hands. I was soon established in my this circumstance in his life. My quarters, and was invited every day to works,” says he, “seem to come forth dine with their majesties as well as to pass under a lucky star, they fly over all lands. the evening in their circle. On several There is something elevating, but at the evenings I read aloud my little stories to same time something terrific, in seeing them, and nothing could be more gracious one's thoughts spread so far, and among so and kind than they were. It is so well many people; it is indeed almost a fearful when a noble human nature will reveal thing to belong to so many. The noble itself, where otherwise only the king's and good in us becomes a blessing, but the crown and purple mantle might be disbad, one's errors, shoot forth also ; and, covered. involuntarily the prayer forces itself from I sailed in the train of their majesties, us— God! let me never write down a to the largest of the Haligs, those grassy word of which I shall not be able to give an runes in the ocean, which bear testimony account to thee!'. A peculiar feeling, a to a sunken country. The violence of the mixture of joy and anxiety, fills my heart sea has changed the mainland into islands, every time my good genius conveys my has again riven these, and buried men and fictions to a foreign people.”
villages. Year after year are new portions Of Andersen's present life we need only rent away, and in half a century's time say that he spends a great deal of time in there will be nothing left but sea. The travelling; he goes from land to land, and Halligs are now low islets, covered with a from court to court, everywhere an honored dark turf, on which a few flocks graze. guest, and enjoying the glorious reward of When the sea rises, these are driven to the a manly struggle against adversity, and the garrets for refuge, and the waves roll over triumph of a lofty and pure genius in this little region, which lies miles distant seeing its claims generously acknowledged. from any shore. Oland, which we visited,
Let us now see the son of the poor shoe- contains a little town; the houses stand maker of Odense—the friendless, ill-clad, closely side by side, as if in their sore need almost heart-broken boy of Copenhagen- they had huddled together; they are all on one of those occasions, which would erected on a platform, and have_little make an era in the life of any other literary windows like the cabin of a ship. There, man, but which are of every day occurrence solitary, through half the year, sit the in his. I will quote from his own words. wives and daughters spinning. Yet I
" I received a letter from the minister, found books in all the houses ; the people Count Rantzau Breitenburg, containing an read and work, and the sea rises round the invitation from their majesties of Denmark, houses, which lie like a wreck on the ocean. to join them at the watering-place of The church-yard is half washed away; Föhr; this island lies on the North Sea, coffins and corpses are frequently exposed on the coast of Sleswick. It was just now to view. It is an appalling sight, and yet five-and-twenty years since I, a poor lad, the inhabitants of the Haligs are attached travelled alone and helpless to Copenhagen. to their little home, and frequently die of Exactly the five-and-twentieth anniversary home sickness when removed from it. would be celebrated by my being with my
" We found only one man upon the king and queen. Everything which sur- island, and he had only lately arisen from rounded me, man and nature, reflected a sick bed; and the others were out on themselves imperishably in my soul ; I felt long voyages. We were received by women myself, as it were, conducted to a point and girls; they had erected before the from which I could look forth more dis- church, a triumphal arch with flowers, tinetly over the past, with all the good which they had fetched from Föhr, but it fortune and happiness which it had evol- was so small and low, that one was obliged ved for me.
to go round it; it nevertheless showed “Wyck, the largest town of Föhr, in their good will. The Queen was deeply which are the baths, is built like a Dutch affected by their having cut down their town, with houses one story high, sloping only shrub, a rose-bush, to lay over a roofs, and gables turned to the street. I marsby place which she had to cross.