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History of Poetry and Literature in Denmark

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The present language of Denmark is derived directly from the same source as that of Sweden, and the parent of both is the old Scandinavian (seeScandinavian Languages). In Iceland this tongue, with some modifications, has remained in use, and until about 1100 it was the literary language of the whole of Scandinavia. The influence of Low German first, and High German afterwards, has had the effect of drawing modern Danish constantly farther from this early type. The difference began to show itself in the 12th century. R. K. Rask, and after him N. M. Petersen, have distinguished four periods in the development of the language, The first, which has been called Oldest Danish, dating from about 1100 and 1250, shows a slightly changed character, mainly depending on the system of inflections. In the second period, that of Old Danish, bringing us down to 1400, the change of the system of vowels begins to be settled, and masculine and feminine are mingled in a common gender. An indefinite article has been formed, and in the conjugation of the verb a great simplicity sets in. In the third period, 1400-1530, the influence of German upon the language is supreme, and culminates in the Reformation. The fourth period, from 1530 to about 1680, completes the work of development, and leaves the language as we at present find it.

The earliest work known to have been written in Denmark was a Latin biography of Knud the Saint, written by an English monk Ælnoth, who was attached to the church of St Alban in Odense where King Knud was murdered. Denmark produced several Latin writers of merit. Anders Sunesen (d. 1228) wrote a long poem in hexameters, Hexaëmeron, describing the creation. Under the auspices of Archbishop Absalon the monks of Sorö began to compile the annals of Denmark, and at the end of the 12th century Svend Aagesen, a cleric of Lund, compiled from Icelandic sources and oral tradition his Compendiosa historia regum Daniae. The great Saxo Grammaticus (q.v.) wrote his Historia Danica under the same patronage.

It was not till the 16th century that literature began to be generally practised in the vernacular in Denmark. The oldest laws which are still preserved date from the beginning of the 13th century, and many different collections are in existence.2 A single work detains us in the 13th century, a treatise on medicine3 by Henrik Harpestreng, who died in 1244. The first royal edict written in Danish is dated 1386; and the Act of Union at Kalmar, written in 1397, is the most important piece of the vernacular of the 14th century. Between 1300 and 1500, however, it is supposed that theKjaempeviser, or Danish ballads, a large collection of about 500 epical and lyrical poems, were originally composed, and these form the most precious legacy of the Denmark of the middle ages, whether judged historically or poetically. We know nothing of the authors of these poems, which treat of the heroic adventures of the great warriors and lovely ladies of the chivalric age in strains of artless but often exquisite beauty. Some of the subjects are borrowed in altered form from the old mythology, while a few derive from Christian legend, and many deal with national history. The language in which we receive these ballads, however, is as late as the 16th or even the 17th century, but it is believed that they have become gradually modernized in the course of oral tradition. The first attempt to collect the ballads was made in 1591 by Anders Sörensen Vedel (1542-1616), who published 100 of them. Peder Syv printed 100 more in 1695. In 1812-1814 an elaborate collection in five volumes appeared at Christiania, edited by W. H. F. Abrahamson, R. Nyerup and K. M. Rahbek. Finally, Svend Grundtvig produced an exhaustive edition, Danmarks gamle Folkeviser(Copenhagen, 1853-1883, 5 vols.), which was supplemented (1891) by A. Olrik.

In 1490, the first printing press was set up at Copenhagen, by Gottfried of Gemen, who had brought it from Westphalia; and five years later the first Danish book was printed. This was the famous Rimkrönike4; a history of Denmark in rhymed Danish verse, attributed by its first editor to Niels (d. 1481); a monk of the monastery of Sorö. It extends to the death of Christian I., in 1481, which may be supposed to be approximately the date of the poem. In 1479 the university of Copenhagen had been founded. In 1506 the same Gottfried of Gemen published a famous collection of proverbs, attributed to Peder Laale. Mikkel, priest of St Alban’s Church in Odense, wrote three sacred poems, The Rose-Garland of Maiden MaryThe Creation and 40Human Life, which came out together in 1514, shortly before his death. The popular Lucidarius also appeared in the vulgar tongue.

These few productions appeared along with innumerable works in Latin, and dimly heralded a Danish literature. It was the Reformation that first awoke the living spirit in the popular tongue. Christiern Pedersen (q.v.; 1480-1554) was the first man of letters produced in Denmark. He edited and published, at Paris in 1514, the Latin text of the old chronicler, Saxo Grammaticus; he worked up in their present form the beautiful half-mythical stories of Karl Magnus (Charlemagne) and Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane). He further translated the Psalms of David and the New Testament, printed in 1529, and finally—in conjunction with Bishop Peder Palladius—the Bible, which appeared in 1550. Hans Tausen, the bishop of Ribe (1494-1561), continued Pedersen’s work, but with far less literary talent. He may, however, be considered as the greatest orator and teacher of the Reformation movement. He wrote a number of popular hymns, partly original, partly translations; translated the Pentateuch from the Hebrew; and published (1536) a collection of sermons embodying the reformed doctrine and destined for the use of clergy and laity.

The Catholic party produced one controversialist of striking ability, Povel Helgesen5 (b. c. 1480), also known as Paulus Eliae. He had at first been inclined to the party of reform, but when Luther broke definitely with the papal authority he became a bitter opponent. His most important polemical work is an answer (1528) to twelve questions on the religious question propounded by Gustavus I. of Sweden. He is also supposed to be the author of the Skiby Chronicle,6 in which he does not confine himself to the duties of a mere annalist, but records his personal opinion of people and events. Vedel, by the edition of the Kjaempeviser which is mentioned above, gave an immense stimulus to the progress of literature. He published an excellent translation of Saxo Grammaticus in 1575. The first edition of a Danish Reineke Fuchs, by Herman Weigere, appeared at Lübeck in 1555, and the first authorized Psalter in 1559. Arild Huitfeld wrote Chronicle of the Kingdom of Denmark, printed in ten volumes, between 1595 and 1604.

There are few traces of dramatic effort in Denmark before the Reformation; and many of the plays of that period may be referred to the class of school comedies. Hans Sthen, a lyrical poet, wrote a morality entitled Kortvending (“Change of Fortune”), which is really a collection of monologues to be delivered by students. The anonymous Ludus de Sancto Kanuto7 (c. 1530) which in spite of its title, is written in Danish, is the earliest Danish national drama. The burlesque drama assigned to Christian Hansen, The Faithless Wife, is the only one of its kind that has survived. But the best of these old dramatic authors was a priest of Viborg, Justesen Ranch (1539-1607), who wrote Kong Salomons Hylding (“The Crowning of King Solomon”) (1585), Samsons Faengsel (“The Imprisonment of Samson”), which includes lyrical passages which have given it claims to be considered the first Danish opera, and a farce, Karrig Niding (“The Miserly Miscreant”). Beside these works Ranch wrote a famous moralizing poem, entitled “A new song, of the nature and song of certain birds, in which many vices are punished, and many virtues praised.” Peder Clausen8 (1545-1614), a Norwegian by birth and education, wrote a Description of Norway, as well as an admirable translation of Snorri Sturlason’s Heimskringla, published ten years after Clausen’s death. The father of Danish poetry, Anders Kristensen Arrebo (1587-1637), was bishop of Trondhjem, but was deprived of his see for immorality. He was a poet of considerable genius, which is most brilliantly shown in an imitation of Du Bartas’s Divine Semaine, theHexaëmeron, a poem on the creation, in six books, which did not appear till 1661. He also made a translation of the Psalms.

He was followed by Anders Bording (1619-1677), a cheerful occasional versifier, and by Thöger Reenberg (1656-1742), a poet of somewhat higher gifts, who lived on into a later age. Among prose writers should be mentioned the grammarian Peder Syv,9 (1631-1702); Bishop Erik Pontoppidan (1616-1678), whose Grammatica Danica, published in 1668, is the first systematic analysis of the language; Birgitta Thott (1610-1662), a lady who translated Seneca (1658); and Leonora Christina Ulfeld, daughter of Christian IV., who has left a touching account of her long imprisonment in her Jammersminde. Ole Worm (1588-1654), a learned pedagogue and antiquarian, preserved in his Danicorum monumentorum libri sex (Copenhagen, 1643) the descriptions of many antiquities which have since perished or been lost.

In two spiritual poets the advancement of the literature of Denmark took a further step. Thomas Kingo10 (1634-1703) was the first who wrote Danish with perfect ease and grace. He was a Scot by descent, and retained the vital energy of his ancestors as a birthright. In 1677 he became bishop in Fünen, where he died in 1703. His Winter Psalter (1689), and the so-called Kingo’s Psalter (1699), contained brilliant examples of lyrical writing, and an employment of language at once original and national. Kingo had a charming fancy, a clear sense of form and great rapidity and variety of utterance. Some of his very best hymns are in the little volume he published in 1681, and hence the old period of semi-articulate Danish may be said to close with this eventful decade, which also witnessed the birth of Holberg. The other great hymn-writer was Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764), who published in 1740 a great psalm-book at the king’s command, in which he added his own to the best of Kingo’s. Both these men held high posts in the church, one being bishop of Fünen and the other of Ribe; but Brorson was much inferior to Kingo in genius. With these names the introductory period of Danish literature ends. The language was now formed, and was being employed for almost all the uses of science and philosophy.

Ludvig Holberg (q.v.; 1684-1754) may be called the founder of modern Danish literature. His various works still retain their freshness and vital attraction. As an historian his style was terse and brilliant, his spirit philosophical, and his data singularly accurate. He united two unusual gifts, being at the same time the most cultured man of his day, and also in the highest degree a practical person, who clearly perceived what would most rapidly educate and interest the uncultivated. In his thirty-three dramas, sparkling comedies in prose, more or less in imitation of Molière, he has left his most important positive legacy to literature. Nor in any series of comedies in existence is decency so rarely sacrificed to a desire for popularity or a false sense of wit.

Holberg founded no school of immediate imitators, but his stimulating influence was rapid and general. The university of Copenhagen, which had been destroyed by fire in 1728, was reopened in 1742, and under the auspices of the historian Hans Gram (1685-1748), who founded the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences, it inspired an active intellectual life. Gram laid the foundation of critical history in Denmark. He brought to bear on the subject a full knowledge of documents and sources. His best work lies in his annotated editions of the older chroniclers. In 1744 Jakob Langebek (1710-1775) founded the Society for the Improvement of the Danish Language, which opened the field of philology. He began the great collection ofScriptores rerum Danicarum medii aevi (9 vols., Copenhagen, 1772-1878). In jurisprudence Andreas Höier (1690-1739) represented the new impulse, and in zoology Erik Pontoppidan (q.v.), the younger. This last name represents a lifelong activity in many branches of literature. From Holberg’s college of Sorö, two learned professors, Jens Schelderup Sneedorff (1724-1764) and Jens Kraft (1720-1765), disseminated the seeds of a wider culture. All these men were aided by the generous and enlightened patronage 41of Frederick V. A little later on, the German poet Klopstock settled in Copenhagen, bringing with him the prestige of his great reputation, and he had a strong influence in Germanizing Denmark. He founded, however, the Society for the Fine Arts, and had it richly endowed. The first prize offered was won by Christian Braumann Tullin (1728-1765) for his beautiful poem of May-day. Tullin, a Norwegian by birth, represents the first accession of a study of external nature in Danish poetry; he was an ardent disciple of the English poet Thomson. Christian Falster (1690-1752) wrote satires of some merit, but most of his work is in Latin. The New Heroic Poems of Jörgen Sorterup are notable as imitations of the old folk-literature. Ambrosius Stub11 (1705-1758) was a lyrist of great sweetness, born before his due time, whose poems, not published till 1771, belong to a later age than their author.

The Lyrical Revival.—Between 1742 and 1749, that is to say, at the very climax of the personal activity of Holberg, several poets were born, who were destined to enrich the language with its first group of lyrical blossoms. Of these the two eldest, Wessel and Ewald, were men of extraordinary genius, and destined to fascinate the attention of posterity, not only by the brilliance of their productions, but by the suffering and brevity of their lives. Johannes Ewald (q.v.; 1743-1781) was not only the greatest Danish lyrist of the 18th century, but he had few rivals in the whole of Europe. As a dramatist, pure and simple, his bird-like instinct of song carried him too often into a sphere too exalted for the stage; but he has written nothing that is not stamped with the exquisite quality of distinction. Johan Herman Wessel12 (1742-1785) excited even greater hopes in his contemporaries, but left less that is immortal behind him. After the death of Holberg, the affectation of Gallicism had reappeared in Denmark; and the tragedies of Voltaire, with their stilted rhetoric, were the most popular dramas of the day. Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1816), a young writer who did better things later on, gave the finishing touch to the exotic absurdity by bringing out a wretched piece called Zarina, which was hailed by the press as the first original Danish tragedy, although Ewald’s exquisite Rolf Krage, which truly merited that title, had appeared two years before. Wessel, who up to that time had only been known as the president of a club of wits, immediately wrote Love without Stockings (1772), in which a plot of the most abject triviality is worked out in strict accordance with the rules of French tragedy, and in most pompous and pathetic Alexandrines. The effect of this piece was magical; the Royal Theatre ejected its cuckoo-brood of French plays, and even the Italian opera. It was now essential that every performance should be national, and in the Danish language. To supply the place of the opera, native musicians, and especially J. P. E. Hartmann, set the dramas of Ewald and others, and thus the Danish school of music originated. Johan Nordahl Brun’s best work is to be found in his patriotic songs and his hymns. He became bishop of Bergen in 1803.

Of the other poets of the revival the most important were born in Norway. Nordahl Brun, Claus Frimann (1746-1829), Claus Fasting (1746-1791), who edited a brilliant aesthetic journal, The Critical Observer, Christian H. Pram13 (1756-1821), author of Staerkodder, a romantic epic, based on Scandinavian legend, and Edvard Storm (1749-1794), were associates and mainly fellow-students at Copenhagen, where they introduced a style peculiar to themselves, and distinct from that of the true Danes. Their lyrics celebrated the mountains and rivers of the magnificent country they had left; and, while introducing images and scenery unfamiliar to the inhabitants of monotonous Denmark, they enriched the language with new words and phrases. This group of writers is now claimed by the Norwegians as the founders of a Norwegian literature; but their true place is certainly among the Danes, to whom they primarily appealed. They added nothing to the development of the drama, except in the person of N. K. Bredal (1733-1778), who became director of the Royal Danish Theatre, and the writer of some mediocre plays.

To the same period belong a few prose writers of eminence. Werner Abrahamson (1744-1812) was the first aesthetic critic Denmark produced. Johan Clemens Tode (1736-1806) was eminent in many branches of science, but especially as a medical writer. Ove Mailing (1746-1829) was an untiring collector of historical data, which he annotated in a lively style. Two historians of more definite claim on our attention are Peter Frederik Suhm (1728-1798), whose History of Denmark (11 vols., Copenhagen, 1782-1812) contains a mass of original material, and Ove Guldberg (1731-1808). In theology Christian Bastholm (1740-1819) and Nicolai Edinger Balle (1744-1816), bishop of Zealand, a Norwegian by birth, demand a reference. But the only really great prose-writer of the period was the Norwegian, Niels Treschow (1751-1833), whose philosophical works are composed in an admirably lucid style, and are distinguished for their depth and originality.

The poetical revival sank in the next generation to a more mechanical level. The number of writers of some talent was very great, but genius was wanting. Two intimate friends, Jonas Rein (1760-1821) and Jens Zetlitz (1761-1821), attempted, with indifferent success, to continue the tradition of the Norwegian group. Thomas Thaarup (1749-1821) was a fluent and eloquent writer of occasional poems, and of homely dramatic idylls. The early death of Ole Samsöe (1759-1796) prevented the development of a dramatic talent that gave rare promise. But while poetry languished, prose, for the first time, began to flourish in Denmark. Knud Lyne Rahbek (1760-1830) was a pleasing novelist, a dramatist of some merit, a pathetic elegist, and a witty song-writer; he was also a man full of the literary instinct, and through a long life he never ceased to busy himself with editing the works of the older poets, and spreading among the people a knowledge of Danish literature through his magazine, Minerva, edited in conjunction with C. H. Pram. Peter Andreas Heiberg (1758-1841) was a political and aesthetic critic of note. He was exiled from Denmark in company with another sympathizer with the principles of the French Revolution, Malte Conrad Brunn (1775-1826), who settled in Paris, and attained a world-wide reputation as a geographer. O. C. Olufsen (1764-1827) was a writer on geography, zoology and political economy. Rasmus Nyerup (1759-1829) expended an immense energy in the compilation of admirable works on the history of language and literature. From 1778 to his death he exercised a great power in the statistical and critical departments of letters. The best historian of this period, however, was Engelstoft (1774-1850), and the most brilliant theologian Bishop Mynster (1775-1854). In the annals of modern science Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) is a name universally honoured. He explained his inventions and described his discoveries in language so lucid and so characteristic that he claims an honoured place in the literature of the country of whose culture, in other branches, he is one of the most distinguished ornaments.

On the threshold of the romantic movement occurs the name of Jens Baggesen (q.v.; 1764-1826), a man of great genius, whose work was entirely independent of the influences around him. Jens Baggesen is the greatest comic poet that Denmark has produced; and as a satirist and witty lyrist he has no rival among the Danes. In his hands the difficulties of the language disappear; he performs with the utmost ease extraordinary tours de force of style. His astonishing talents were wasted on trifling themes and in a fruitless resistance to the modern spirit in literature.

Romanticism.—With the beginning of the 19th century the new light in philosophy and poetry, which radiated from Germany through all parts of Europe, found its way into Denmark also. In scarcely any country was the result so rapid or so brilliant. There arose in Denmark a school of poets who created for themselves a reputation in all parts of Europe, and would have done honour to any nation or any age. The splendid cultivation of metrical art threw other branches into the shade; and the epoch 42of which we are about to speak is eminent above all for mastery over verse. The swallow who heralded the summer was a German by birth, Adolph Wilhelm Schack von Staffeldt14 (1769-1826), who came over to Copenhagen from Pomerania, and prepared the way for the new movement. Since Ewald no one had written Danish lyrical verse so exquisitely as Schack von Staffeldt, and the depth and scientific precision of his thought won him a title which he has preserved, of being the first philosophic poet of Denmark. The writings of this man are the deepest and most serious which Denmark had produced, and at his best he yields to no one in choice and skilful use of expression. This sweet song of Schack von Staffeldt’s, however, was early silenced by the louder choir that one by one broke into music around him. It was Adam Gottlob Öhlenschläger (q.v.; 1779-1850), the greatest poet of Denmark, who was to bring about the new romantic movement. In 1802 he happened to meet the young Norwegian Henrik Steffens (1773-1845), who had just returned from a scientific tour in Germany, full of the doctrines of Schelling. Under the immediate direction of Steffens, Öhlenschläger began an entirely new poetic style, and destroyed all his earlier verses. A new epoch in the language began, and the rapidity and matchless facility of the new poetry was the wonder of Steffens himself. The old Scandinavian mythology lived in the hands of Öhlenschläger exactly as the classical Greek religion was born again in Keats. He aroused in his people the slumbering sense of their Scandinavian nationality.

The retirement of Öhlenschläger comparatively early in life, left the way open for the development of his younger contemporaries, among whom several had genius little inferior to his own. Steen Steensen Blicher (1782-1848) was a Jutlander, and preserved all through life the characteristics of his sterile and sombre fatherland. After a struggling youth of great poverty, he published, in 1807-1809, a translation of Ossian; in 1814 a volume of lyrical poems; and in 1817 he attracted considerable attention by his descriptive poem of The Tour in Jutland. His real genius, however, did not lie in the direction of verse; and his first signal success was with a story, A Village Sexton’s Diary, in 1824, which was rapidly followed by other tales, descriptive of village life in Jutland, for the next twelve years. These were collected in five volumes (1833-1836). His masterpiece is a collection of short stories, called The Spinning Room. He also produced many national lyrics of great beauty. But it was Blicher’s use of patois which delighted his countrymen with a sense of freshness and strength. They felt as though they heard Danish for the first time spoken in its fulness. The poet Aarestrup (in 1848) declared that Blicher had raised the Danish language to the dignity of Icelandic. Blicher is a stern realist, in many points akin to Crabbe, and takes a singular position among the romantic idealists of the period, being like them, however, in the love of precise and choice language, and hatred of the mere commonplaces of imaginative writing.15

Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (q.v.; 1783-1872), like Öhlenschläger, learned the principles of the German romanticism from the lips of Steffens. He adopted the idea of introducing the Old Scandinavian element into art, and even into life, still more earnestly than the older poet.Bernhard Severin Ingemann (q.v.; 1789-1862) contributed to Danish literature historical romances in the style of Sir Walter Scott. Johannes Carsten Hauch (q.v.; 1790-1872) first distinguished himself as a disciple of Öhlenschläger, and fought under him in the strife against the old school and Baggesen. But the master misunderstood the disciple; and the harsh repulse of Öhlenschläger silenced Hauch for many years. He possessed, however, a strong and fluent genius, which eventually made itself heard in a multitude of volumes, poems, dramas and novels. All that Hauch wrote is marked by great qualities, and by distinction; he had a native bias towards the mystical, which, however, he learned to keep in abeyance.

Johan Ludvig Heiberg (q.v.; 1791-1860) was a critic who ruled the world of Danish taste for many years. His mother, the Baroness Gyllembourg-Ehrensvärd (q.v.; 1773-1856), wrote a large number of anonymous novels. Her knowledge of life, her sparkling wit and her almost faultless style, make these short stories masterpieces of their kind.

Christian Hviid Bredahl (1784-1860) produced six volumes of Dramatic Scenes16 (1819-1833) which, in spite of their many brilliant qualities, were little appreciated at the time. Bredahl gave up literature in despair to become a peasant farmer, and died in poverty.

Ludvig Adolf Bödtcher (1793-1874) wrote a single volume of lyrical poems, which he gradually enlarged in succeeding editions. He was a consummate artist in verse, and his impressions are given with the most delicate exactitude of phrase, and in a very fine strain of imagination. He was a quietist and an epicurean, and the closest parallel to Horner in the literature of the North. Most of Bödtcher’s poems deal with Italian life, which he learned to know thoroughly during a long residence in Rome. He was secretary to Thorwaldsen for a considerable time.

Christian Winther (q.v.; 1796-1876) made the island of Zealand his loving study, and that province of Denmark belongs to him no less thoroughly than the Cumberland lakes belong to Wordsworth. Between the latter poet and Winther there was much resemblance. He was, without compeer, the greatest pastoral lyrist of Denmark. His exquisite strains, in which pure imagination is blended with most accurate and realistic descriptions of scenery and rural life, have an extraordinary charm not easily described.

The youngest of the great poets born during the last twenty years of the 18th century was Henrik Hertz (q.v.; 1797-1870). As a satirist and comic poet he followed Baggesen, and in all branches of the poetic art stood a little aside out of the main current of romanticism. He introduced into the Danish literature of his time inestimable elements of lucidity and purity. In his best pieces Hertz is the most modern and most cosmopolitan of the Danish writers of his time.

It is noticeable that all the great poets of the romantic period lived to an advanced age. Their prolonged literary activity—for some of them, like Grundtvig, were busy to the last—had a slightly damping influence on their younger contemporaries, but certain names in the next generation have special prominence. Hans Christian Andersen (q.v.; 1805-1875) was the greatest of modern fabulists. In 1835 there appeared the first collection of hisFairy Tales, and won him a world-wide reputation. Almost every year from this time forward until near his death he published about Christmas time one or two of these unique stories, so delicate in their humour and pathos, and so masterly in their simplicity. Carl Christian Bagger (1807-1846) published volumes in 1834 and 1836 which gave promise of a great future,—a promise broken by his early death. Frederik Paludan-Müller (q.v.; 1809-1876) developed, as a poet, a magnificent career, which contrasted in its abundance with his solitary and silent life as a man. His mythological or pastoral dramas, his great satiric epos of Adam Homo (1841-1848), his comedies, his lyrics, and above all his noble philosophic tragedy ofKalanus, prove the immense breadth of his compass, and the inexhaustible riches of his imagination. C. L. Emil Aarestrup (1800-1856) published in 1838 a volume of vivid erotic poetry, but its quality was only appreciated after his death. Edvard Lembcke (1815-1897) made himself famous as the admirable translator of Shakespeare, but the incidents of 1864 produced from him some volumes of direct and manly patriotic verse.

The poets completely ruled the literature of Denmark during this period. There were, however, eminent men in other departments of letters, and especially in philology. Rasmus Christian Rask (1787-1832) was one of the most original and gifted linguists of his age. His grammars of Old Frisian, Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon were unapproached in his own time, and are still admirable. Niels Matthias Petersen (1791-1862), a disciple of Rask, was the author of an admirable History of Denmark in the Heathen 43Antiquity, and the translator of many of the sagas. Martin Frederik Arendt (1773-1823), the botanist and archaeologist, did much for the study of old Scandinavian records. Christian Molbech (1783-1857) was a laborious lexicographer, author of the first good Danish dictionary, published in 1833. In Joachim Frederik Schouw (1789-1852), Denmark produced a very eminent botanist, author of an exhaustive Geography of Plants. In later years he threw himself with zeal into politics. His botanical researches were carried on by Frederik Liebmann (1813-1856). The most famous zoologist contemporary with these men was Salomon Dreier (1813-1842).

The romanticists found their philosopher in a most remarkable man, Sören Aaby Kierkegaard (1813-1855), one of the most subtle thinkers of Scandinavia, and the author of some brilliant philosophical and polemical works. A learned philosophical writer, not to be compared, however, for genius or originality to Kierkegaard, was Frederik Christian Sibbern (1785-1872). He wrote a dissertation On Poetry and Art (3 vols., 1853-1869) and The Contents of a MS. from the Year 2135 (3 vols., 1858-1872).

Among novelists who were not also poets was Andreas Nikolai de Saint-Aubain (1798-1865), who, under the pseudonym of Carl Bernhard, wrote a series of charming romances. Mention must also be made of two dramatists, Peter Thun Feorsom (1777-1817), who produced an excellent translation of Shakespeare (1807-1816), and Thomas Overskou (1798-1873), author of a long series of successful comedies, and of a history of the Danish theatre (5 vols., Copenhagen, 1854-1864).

Other writers whose names connect the age of romanticism with a later period were Meyer Aron Goldschmidt (1819-1887), author of novels and tales; Herman Frederik Ewald (1821-1908), who wrote a long series of historical novels; Jens Christian Hostrup (1818-1892), a writer of exquisite comedies; and the miscellaneous writer Erik Bögh (1822-1899). In zoology, J. J. S. Steenstrup (1813-1898); in philology, J. N. Madvig (1804-1886) and his disciple V. Thomsen (b. 1842); in antiquarianism, C. J. Thomsen (1788-1865) and J. J. Asmussen Worsaae (1821-1885); and in philosophy, Rasmus Nielsen (1809-1884) and Hans Bröchner (1820-1875), deserve mention.

The development of imaginative literature in Denmark became very closely defined during the latter half of the 19th century. The romantic movement culminated in several poets of great eminence, whose deaths prepared the way for a new school. In 1874 Bödtcher passed away, in 1875 Hans Christian Andersen, in the last week of 1876 Winther, and the greatest of all, Frederik Paludan-Müller. The field was therefore left open to the successors of those idealists, and in 1877 the reaction began to be felt. The eminent critic, Dr Georg Brandes (q.v.), had long foreseen the decline of pure romanticism, and had advocated a more objective and more exact treatment of literary phenomena. Accordingly, as soon as all the great planets had disappeared, a new constellation was perceived to have risen, and all the stars in it had been lighted by the enthusiasm of Brandes. The new writers were what he called Naturalists, and their sympathies were with the latest forms of exotic, but particularly of French literature. Among these fresh forces three immediately took place as leaders—Jacobsen, Drachmann and Schandorph. In J. P. Jacobsen (q.v.; 1847-1885) Denmark was now taught to welcome the greatest artist in prose which she has ever possessed; his romance of Marie Grubbe led off the new school with a production of unexampled beauty. But Jacobsen died young, and the work was really carried out by his two companions. Holger Drachmann (q.v.; 1846-1908) began life as a marine painter; and a first little volume of poems, which he published in 1872, attracted slight attention. In 1877 he came forward again with one volume of verse, another of fiction, a third of travel; in each he displayed great vigour and freshness of touch, and he rose at one leap to the highest position among men of promise. Drachmann retained his place, without rival, as the leading imaginative writer in Denmark. For many years he made the aspects of life at sea his particular theme, and he contrived to rouse the patriotic enthusiasm of the Danish public as it had never been roused before. His various and unceasing productiveness, his freshness and vigour, and the inexhaustible richness of his lyric versatility, early brought Drachmann to the front and kept him there. Meanwhile prose imaginative literature was ably supported by Sophus Schandorph (1836-1901), who had been entirely out of sympathy with the idealists, and had taken no step while that school was in the ascendant. In 1876, in his fortieth year, he was encouraged by the change in taste to publish a volume of realistic stories, Country Life, and in 1878 a novel, Without a Centre. He has some relation with Guy de Maupassant as a close analyst of modern types of character, but he has more humour. He has been compared with such Dutch painters of low life as Teniers. His talent reached its height in the novel called Little Folk (1880), a most admirable study of lower middle-class life in Copenhagen. He was for a while, without doubt, the leading living novelist, and he went on producing works of great force, in which, however, a certain monotony is apparent. The three leaders had meanwhile been joined by certain younger men who took a prominent position. Among these Karl Gjellerup and Erik Skram were the earliest. Gjellerup (b. 1857), whose first works of importance date from 1878, was long uncertain as to the direction of his powers; he was poet, novelist, moralist and biologist in one; at length he settled down into line with the new realistic school, and produced in 1882 a satirical novel of manners which had a great success, The Disciple of the Teutons. Erik Skram (b. 1847) had in 1879 written a solitary novel, Gertrude Coldbjörnsen, which created a sensation, and was hailed by Brandes as exactly representing the “naturalism” which he desired to see encouraged; but Skram has written little else of importance. Other writers of reputation in the naturalistic school were Edvard Brandes (b. 1847), and Herman Bang (b. 1858). Peter Nansen (b. 1861) has come into wide notoriety as the author, in particularly beautiful Danish, of a series of stories of a pronouncedly sexual type, among which Maria (1894) has been the most successful. Meanwhile, several of the elder generation, unaffected by the movement of realism, continued to please the public. Three lyrical poets, H. V. Kaalund (1818-1885), Carl Ploug (1813-1894) and Christian Richardt (1831-1892), of very great talent, were not yet silent, and among the veteran novelists were still active H. F. Ewald and Thomas Lange (1829-1887). Ewald’s son Carl (1856-1908) achieved a great name as a novelist, but did his most characteristic work in a series of books for children, in which he used the fairy tale, in the manner of Hans Andersen, as a vehicle for satire and a theory of morals. During the whole of this period the most popular writer of Denmark was J. C. C. Brosböll (1816-1900), who wrote, under the pseudonym Carit Etlar, a vast number of tales. Another popular novelist was Vilhelm Bergsöe (b. 1835), author of In the Sabine Mountains (1871), and other romances. Sophus Bauditz (b. 1850) persevered in composing novels which attain a wide general popularity. Mention must be made also of the dramatist Christian Molbech (1821-1888).

Between 1885 and 1892 there was a transitional period in Danish literature. Up to that time all the leaders had been united in accepting the naturalistic formula, which was combined with an individualist and a radical tendency. In 1885, however, Drachmann, already the recognized first poet of the country, threw off his allegiance to Brandes, denounced the exotic tradition, declared himself a Conservative, and took up a national and patriotic attitude. He was joined a little later by Gjellerup, while Schandorph remained stanchly by the side of Brandes. The camp was thus divided. New writers began to make their appearance, and, while some of these were stanch to Brandes, others were inclined to hold rather with Drachmann. Of the authors who came forward during this period of transition, the strongest novelist proved to be Hendrik Pontoppidan (b. 1857). In some of his books he reminds the reader of Turgeniev. Pontoppidan published in 1898 the first volume of a great novel entitled Lykke-Per, the biography of a typical Jutlander named Per Sidenius, a work to be completed in eight volumes. From 1893 to 1909 no great features of a fresh kind revealed themselves. The Danish public, grown tired of realism, and satiated with pathological phenomena, returned to a fresh study of their own national 44characteristics. The cultivation of verse, which was greatly discouraged in the eighties, returned. Drachmann was supported by excellent younger poets of his school. J. J. Jörgensen (b. 1866), a Catholic decadent, was very prolific. Otto C. Fönss (b. 1853) published seven little volumes of graceful lyrical poems in praise of gardens and of farm-life. Andreas Dolleris (b. 1850), of Vejle, showed himself an occasional poet of merit. Alfred Ipsen (b. 1852) must also be mentioned as a poet and critic. Valdemar Rördam, whose The Danish Tongue was the lyrical success of 1901, may also be named. Some attempts were made to transplant the theories of the symbolists to Denmark, but without signal success. On the other hand, something of a revival of naturalism is to be observed in the powerful studies of low life admirably written by Karl Larsen (b. 1860).

The drama has long flourished in Denmark. The principal theatres are liberally open to fresh dramatic talent of every kind, and the great fondness of the Danes for this form of entertainment gives unusual scope for experiments in halls or private theatres; nothing is too eccentric to hope to obtain somewhere a fair hearing. Drachmann produced with very great success several romantic dramas founded on the national legends. Most of the novelists and poets already mentioned also essayed the stage, and to those names should be added these of Einar Christiansen (b. 1861), Ernst von der Recke (b. 1848), Oskar Benzon (b. 1856) and Gustav Wied (b. 1858).

In theology no names were as eminent as in the preceding generation, in which such writers as H. N. Clausen (1793-1877), and still more Hans Lassen Martensen (1808-1884), lifted the prestige of Danish divinity to a high point. But in history the Danes have been very active. Karl Ferdinand Allen (1811-1871) began a comprehensive history of the Scandinavian kingdoms (5 vols., 1864-1872). Jens Peter Trap (1810-1885) concluded his great statistical account of Denmark in 1879. The 16th century was made the subject of the investigations of Troels Lund (q.v.). About 1880 several of the younger historians formed the plan of combining to investigate and publish the sources of Danish history; in this the indefatigable Johannes Steenstrup (b. 1844) was prominent. The domestic history of the country began, about 1885, to occupy the attention of Edvard Holm (b. 1833), O. Nielsen and the veteran P. Frederik Barfod (1811-1896). The naval histories of G. Lütken attracted much notice. Besides the names already mentioned, A. D. Jörgensen (1840-1897), J. Fredericia (b. 1849), Christian Erslev (b. 1852) and Vilhelm Mollerup have all distinguished themselves in the excellent school of Danish historians. In 1896 an elaborate composite history of Denmark was undertaken by some leading historians (pub. 1897-1905). In philosophy nothing has recently been published of the highest value. Martensen’s Jakob Böhme (1881) belongs to an earlier period. H. Höffding (b. 1843) has been the most prominent contributor to psychology. His Problems of Philosophy and his Philosophy of Religion were translated into English in 1906. Alfred Lehmann (b. 1858) has, since 1896, attracted a great deal of attention by his sceptical investigation of psychical phenomena. F. Rönning has written on the history of thought in Denmark. In the criticism of art, Julius Lange (1838-1896), and later Karl Madsen, have done excellent service. In literary criticism Dr Georg Brandes is notable for the long period during which he remained predominant. His was a steady and stimulating presence, ever pointing to the best in art and thought, and his influence on his age was greater than that of any other Dane.


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