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Olof von Dalin Biography | Poet

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DALIN, OLOF VON (1708-1763), Swedish poet, was born on the 29th of August 1708 in the parish of Vinberg in Halland, where his father was the minister. He was nearly related to Rydelius, the philosophical bishop of Lund, and he was sent at a very early age to be instructed by him, Linnaeus being one of his fellow-pupils. While studying at Lund, Dalin had visited Stockholm in the year 1723, and in 1726 entered one of the public offices there. Under the patronage of Baron Rålamb he rapidly rose to preferment, and his skill and intelligence won him golden opinions. In 1733 he started the weekly Svenska Argus, on the model of Addison’s Spectator, writing anonymously till 1736. His next work was Tankar öfver Critiquer(Thoughts about Critics, 1736). With the avowed purpose of enlarging the horizon of his cultivation and tastes, Dalin set off, in company with his pupil, Baron Rålamb’s son, on a tour through Germany and France, in 1739-1740. On his return the shifting of political life at home caused him to write his famous satiric allegories of The Story of the Horse and Aprilverk (1738), which were very popular and provoked countless imitations. His didactic epos of Svenska Friheten (Swedish Liberty) appeared in 1742. Hitherto Addison and Pope had been his models; in this work he draws his inspiration from Thomson, whose poem of Liberty it emulated. On the accession of Adolphus Freduck in 1751 Dalin received the post of tutor to the crown prince, afterwards Gustavus III. He had enjoyed the confidence of Queen Louisa Ulrika, sister of Frederick the Great of Germany, while she was crown princess, and she now made him secretary of the Swedish academy of literature, founded by her in 1753. His position at court involved him in the queen’s political intrigues, and separated him to a vexatious degree from the studies in which he had hitherto been absorbed. He held the post of tutor to the crown prince until 1756, when he was arrested on suspicion of having taken part in the attempted coup d’état of that year, and was tried for his life before the diet. He was acquitted, but was forbidden on any pretence to show himself at court. This period of exile, which lasted until 1761, Dalin spent in the preparation of the third volume of his great historical work, the Svea Rikes historia (History of the Swedish Kingdom), which came down to the death of Charles IX. in 1611. The first two volumes appeared in 1746-1750; the third, in two parts, in 1760-1762. Dalin had been ennobled in 1751, and made privy councillor in 1753; and now, in 1761, he once more took his place at court. During his exile, however, his spirit and his health had been broken; in a fit of panic he had destroyed some packets of his best unpublished works and this he constantly brooded over. On the 12th of August 1763 he died at his house in Drottningholm. In the year 1767 his writings in belles lettres were issued in six volumes, edited by J. C. Bökman, his half-brother. Amid an enormous mass of occasional verses, anagrams, epigrams, impromptus and the like, his satires and serious poems were almost buried. But some of these former, even, are found to be songs of remarkable grace and delicacy, and many display a love of natural scenery and a knowledge of its forms truly remarkable in that artificial age. His dramas also are of interest, particularly his admirable comedy of Den afvundsjuke (The Envious Man, 1738); he also wrote a tragedy, Brynilda (1739), and a pastoral in three scenes on King Adolphus Frederick’s return from Finland. During the early part of his life he was universally admitted to be facile princeps among the Swedish poets of his time.

See also K. Warburg, “Olof von Dalin,” in the Handlingar (vol. lix., 1884) of the Swedish Academy. A selection of his works was edited by E. V. Lindblad (Örebro, 1872).


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