Heiberg, Johan Ludvig
time copenhagen drama
HEIBERG, JOHAN LUDVIG (1791-1860), Danish poet and critic, was the son of the political writer Peter Andreas Heiberg, and of the fatuous novelist, afterwards the Baroness Gyllembourg-Ehrensvard. He was born at Copenhagen, December 14, 1791. In 1800 his father was exiled, and he was taken by Rahbek and his excellent wife into their house at Bakkehuset. They found him, however, very difficult to manage, and about 1802 sent him back to his own family. His mother's marriage being by a state decree annulled, she married the Swedish baron Gyllembourg-Ehrensvard, keeping up, however, friendly correspondence with her first husband in Paris. In 1805 she describes, in one of these letters, the brilliant precocity of the young Johan. The latter proceeded to the university of Copenhagen in 1809. It was not needful that he should earn his bread, and accordingly his mother indulged for many years his extraordinary thirst for knowledge. In 1812 he visited Sweden, and made some long stay in Stockholm; lie afterwards sent to his mother from Upsala the first important poem which he composed, Hjentkonisten (The Return Home), a piece of remarkable strength and brightness. In 1813 his first publication appeared, a romantic drama for children, entitled The Theatre for Marionettes. This was followed by Christmas Jokes and New Year's Tricks in 1816, Time Initiation, of Psyche, 1817, and The Prophecy of Tycho Brake. These works attracted attention at a time when Baggesen, Oehlenschlager, and Ingernann possessed the popular ear, and were understood at once to be the opening of a great career. In 1817 Heiberg took his degree, and in 1819 went abroad with a grant from Government. He proceeded to Paris, and spent the next three years there, under his father's roof. In 1822 he published his drama of ilrirra, and was made professor of the Danish language at the university of Kiel. At this town he delivered a course of lectures, comparing the Scandinavian mythology as found in the Edda with the poems of Oehlenschliiger. These lectures were published in German in 1827. In 1825 Heiberg came back to Copenhagen for the purpose of introducing the vaudeville) on the Danish stage. Meanwhile he was producing dramatic work of a more serious kind : in 1828 he brought out the national drama of Elverhoi, in 1835 the comedy of The Elves, and in 1838 Fats ilforganct. In 1841 Heiberg published a volume of Kew Poems, containing "A Soul after Death," which is perhaps his masterpiece, "The Newly Wedded Pair," and other pieces. All this time he had been busily engaged in editing the famous journal, Time Copenhagen, Flying Post, which he founded in 1827 and continued until 1837. In 1831 he married Johanne Louise Pmtges, the greatest actress that Scandinavia has produced. Heiberg's scathing satires at last began to make him very unpopular ; and this antagonism reached its height when, in 1845, he published his little malicious drama of The Nut Crackers. Notwithstanding this he received in 1847 the responsible post of director of the national theatre, for which indeed he was more eminently fitted than any other living person. He filled it for seven years, working with great zeal and conscientiousness, but was forced by intrigues from without to resign it in 1854. His health was much disturbed by these attacks, and he retired into private life. Heiberg died et Bonderup, near Ringsted, on the 25th of August 1860.
It has been said that "the average cultivated Dane nowadays is very much what Heiberg has made him." His influence upon taste and critical opinion was greater than that of any writer of his time, and can only be compared with that of Holberg in the 18th century. Most of the poets of the Romantic movement in Denmark were very grave and serious ; Heiberg added the element of humour, elegance, and irony to the dignity of Oehlenschbiger, the pathos of Ingemann, and the passion of Hertz. His versification was refined and exact, and his very best pieces are those in which he mingles rich lyrical expression with what is satirical or purely ludicrous. The works of Heiberg were collected, in 11 vols., in 1861-62.