norwegian published danish writers lyrical poet poems wergeland denmark author
NORWAY LITERATURE - the literature of Norway bears something of the same relation to that of Denmark that American literature bears to English. In each case the development and separation of a dependency have produced a desire on the part of persons speaking the mother-tongue for a literature that shall express the local emotions and conditions of the new nation. Two notable events led to the foundation of Norwegian literature : the one was the creation of the university of Christiania in 1811, and the other was the separation of Norway from Denmark in 1814. These events were the signals for intellectual and political independence. Before this time Norwegian writers had been content, as a rule, to publish their works at Copenhagen, which was the metropolis of the realm ; they had now a capital of their own in Christiania. The great distinction, however, between Norway and America was that the former was sufficiently ancient and sufficiently neighbouring to contribute to the glory of Denmark a great many young men who quitted the colonial and narrow circle into which they were born, and became to all intents and purposes Danish writers. The first name on the annals of Danish literature, Peder Clausson, is that of a Norwegian; and if all Norse writers were removed from that roll, the list would be poorer by some of its most illustrious names, by Holberg, Tullin, Wessel, Treschow, Steffens, and Hauch.
We must first examine what was done in Norway itself during the colonial period. The first book printed in the country was an almanac, brought out in Christiania in 1643 by a wandering printer named Tyge Nielsen, who brought his types from Copenhagen. But the first press set up definitely in Norway was that of Valentin Kuhn, brought over from Germany in 1650 by the theologian Christian Stephensen Bang (1580-1678) to help in the circulation of his numerous tracts. Bang's Christiania; Stads Beskrifuelse, 1651, is the first book published in Norway. The name which next detains us is that of Christen Jensen (d. 1653), a priest who collected a small glossary or glosebog of the local dialects, and which was published in 1656. Gerhard Milzow (1629-1688), the author of a Presbyterologia Kgrwegica, 1679, was also a Norse priest. The earliest Norwegian writer of any original merit was Dorthe Engelbrechtsdatter (1634-1716), afterwards the wife of the pastor Ambrosius Hardenbech (see vol. viii. p. 214). She is the author of several volumes of religious poetry, of a very lacrymose and lamentable order, which have enjoyed great popularity down to the present day. The hymn-writer Johan Brunsmann (1637-1707), though a Norseman by birth, belongs by education and temper entirely to Denmark. Not so Peder Dass (1647-1708) (see vol. vi. p. 831), the most original writer whom Norway produced and retained at home during the colonial period. Another priest, Jonas Ramus (1649-1718), wrote two important posthumous works in prose, Norriges Kongers Historie (History of the Norse Kings) in 1719, and Norriges Beskrivelse, 1735. The celebrated missionary to Greenland, Hans Egede (16861758), wrote several works on his experiences in that country. Peder Hersleb (1689-1757) was the compiler of some popular treatises of Lutheran theology. Frederik Nannestad, bishop of Throndhjem (1693-1774), deserves mention as the founder of the periodical press in Norway, having started a weekly gazette in 1760. The missionary Knud Leem (1697-1774) published a number of philological and topographical works regarding the Lapps of Finmark, one at least of which, his Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, 1767, still possesses considerable interest. The famous Erik Pontoppidan (1698-1764) cannot be regarded as a Norwegian, for he did not leave Denmark until he was made bishop of Bergen, at the age of forty-nine. On the other hand the far more famous Baron Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), the chief of Danish writers, belongs to Denmark by everything but birth, having left Norway in childhood.
A few Norsemen of the beginning of the 18th century distinguished themselves, chiefly in science. Of these Johan Ernst Gunnerus (1718-1773), bishop of Throndhjem, was the most eminent ; he was the first man who gave close attention to the Norwegian flora. He founded the Norwegian Royal Society of Sciences in 1760, in unison with his friends Gerhard Schoning (1722-1780) the historian and Hans Strom (1726-1797) the zoologist. Of these three friends Schoning deserves the greatest prominence in this place, because he wrote more in Danish and less in Latin than the other two. In belles-lettres Norway began to show vitality only when the century had reached its half-way point. Peder Christofer Stenersen (1723-1776), a writer of occasional verses, merely led the way for Christian Braumann Tullin (1728-1765), a lyrical poet of exquisite genius, whose talent is claimed by Denmark as one of the jewels in the crown of her literature, but who must be mentioned here, because his poetry was not only mainly composed in Christiania, but breathes a local spirit. He has been called the Father of Danish lyrical verse. From Tullin's day for about thirty years Denmark was principally supplied with poets from Norway. That portion of the chronicle of Danish literature which extends between the great names of Evald and Baggesen presents us with hardly a single figure which is not that of a Norseman. The director of the Danish national theatre in 1771 was a Norwegian, Niels Krog Bredal (1733-1778), who was the first to write lyrical dramas in Danish, and who exercised wide influence. A Norwegian, Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1816), was the principal tragedian of the time, in the French taste. It was a Norwegian, J. H. Wessel (1742-1785), who laughed this taste out of fashion. In 1772 the Norwegian poets were so strong in Copenhagen that they formed a .fforske Selskab (Norwegian Society), which exercised a tyranny over contemporary letters which was only shaken when Baggesen appeared. Among the leading writers of this period we can but just mention, besides those above named, Claus Frimann (17461829), Peter Harboe Frimann (1752-1839), Claus Fasting (1746-1791), Johan Wibe (1748-1782), Edvard Storm (1749-1794), C. H. Pram (1756-1821), Jonas Rein (17601821), Jens Zetlitz (1761-1821), and Lyder Christian Sagen (1771-1850), all of whom, though Norwegians by birth, find their place in the annals of Danish literature. To these poets must be added the philosophers Niels Treschow (1751-1833) and Henrik Steffens '(1773-1845), and in later times the poet Johannes Carsten Rauch (17901872). There is no example of a writer of importance, born in Norway since 1800, who is counted among Danish authors.
The first form which Norwegian literature took as an independent thing was what was called " SyttendemaiPoesi," or poetry of the seventeenth of May, that being the day on which Norway obtained her independence and proclaimed her king. Three poets, called the Trefoil, came forward as the inaugurators of Norwegian thought in 1814. Of these Conrad Nicolai Schwach (1793-1860) was the least remarkable. Henrik Anker Bjerregaard (1792- 1842), born in the same hamlet of Ringsaker as Schwach, had a much brighter and more varied talent. His poems, collected at Christiania in 1829, contain some charming studies from nature. He brought out a tragedy of Magnus Barfods Sonner (Magnus Barefoot's Sons) and a lyrical drama, Fjeldeventyret (The Adventure in the Mountains), 1828. The third member of the Trefoil, Mauritz Christopher Hansen (1794-1842), was a laborious and fecund worker in many fields. His novels, of which Ottar de Bretagne, 1819, was the earliest, were much esteemed in their day, and after Hansen's death were collected and edited, with a memoir by Schwach. Hansen's Poems, printed at Christiania in 1816, were among the earliest publications of a liberated Norway, but were preceded by a volume of Snzaadigte (Short Poems) by all three poets, edited by Schwach in 1815, as a semi-political manifesto. These writers, of no great genius in themselves, did much by their industry and patriotism to form a basis for Norwegian literature to be built upon. They wrote, however, on national themes without much knowledge, and in complete bondage to the conventional forms in vogue in Copenhagen in their youth.
The creator of Norwegian literature, however, was the poet Henrik Arnold Wergeland (1808-1845), a man of great genius and enthusiasm, who contrived within the limits of a life as short as Byron's to concentrate the labours of a dozen ordinary men of letters. He held views in most respects similar to those pronounced by Rousseau and Shelley ; he never ceased to preach the dignity of man, the worth of liberty to the individual and of independence to the nation, and the relation of republican politics to a sound form of literature. His own ideal of literature, however, was at first anything but sound. He was the eldest son of Professor Nikolai Wergeland (17801848), who had been one of the constitutional assembly who proclaimed the independence of Norway in 1814 at Eidsvold. Nikolai was himself pastor of Eidsvold, and the poet was thus brought up in the very holy of holies of Norwegian patriotism. His earliest efforts in literature were wild and formless. He was full of imagination, but without taste or knowledge. He published poetical farces under the pseudonym of " Siful Sifadda," trifles unworthy of attention. These were followed, in 1828, by Sinclair's Death, an unsuccessful tragedy ; and in 1829 by a volume of lyrical and patriotic poems, which attracted the liveliest attention to his name. At the age of twenty-one he became a power in literature,-nay more, an influence in the state. But these writings were coldly received by connoisseurs, and a monster epic, Skabelsen, Mennesket, og Mesias (Creation, Man, and Messiah), which followed in 1830, showed no improvement in style. From 1831 to 1835 Wergeland was submitted to severe satirical attacks from Welhaven and others, and his style became improved in every respect. His popularity waned as his poetry improved, and in 1840 he found himself a really great poet, but an exile from political influence. His Jan van Huy-sums Blomsterstykke (J. van Huysum's Flower-piece), 1840, Svalen (The Swallow), 1841, Joden (The Jew), 1842, Jodinden (The Jewess), 1844, and Den Engelske Lods (The English Pilot), 1844, form a series of narrative poems in short lyrical metres which remain the most interesting and important of their kind in Norwegian literature. He was less successful in other branches of letters; in the drama, neither his Campbellerne (The Campbells), 1837, Venetianerne (The Venetians), 1843, nor Sokadetterne (The Cadets), 1848, has achieved any lasting success, while his elaborate contribution to political history, 11Torges Konstitutions Historie, 1841-43, is forgotten. The poems of his last five years, however, enjoy as true a popularity as ever, and are not likely to lose it. The only influence which Wergeland, in spite of his genius, has had on Norwegian literature is the removal of traditions and the release of style in various directions. His obscurity and extravagance have stood in the way of his teaching, and his only disciples in poetry have been Sylvester Sivertson (1809-1847), a journalist of talent whose verses were collected in 1848, and Christian Monsen (1815-1852).
A far more wholesome and constructive influence was that of Johann Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven (18071873), who was first brought to the surface by the conservative reaction in 1830 against the extravagance of the radical party. His first publications were polemical, and were mainly directed against Wergeland. A savage attack on Henrik )Vergeland's Poetry, published in 1832, caused a great sensation, and produced an angry pamphlet in reply from the father, Nikolai Wergeland. The controversy became the main topic of the day, and in 1834 Welhaven pushed it into a wider arena by the publication of his beautiful cycle of satirical sonnets called Noryes Dwmring (The Dawn of Norway), in which he preached a full conservative gospel. Norway has not followed Welhaven in politics, but it certainly has in literature. The salutary character of his advice was instantly felt by the younger men of letters. As a poet and as a critic he continued to do admirable work. He published volumes of lyrical and romantic poems in 1839, 1845, 1848, 1851, and 1860 ; and he enriched the language by two excellent critical studies, one on Holberg, 1854, and the other on Evald and the Norwegian Club, 1863. His collected works appeared in eight volumes in 1867-68. He was assisted in his controversy with Wergeland by Henrik Hermann Foss (1790-1853), author of Tidsnornerne (The Norns of the Age), 1835, and other verses.
Andreas Munch (b. 1811), the oldest now-living Norwegian author of any repute, has been one of the most rapid and industrious of poetical writers. He took no part in the feud between Wergeland and Welhaven, but addicted himself to the study of Danish models independently of either. He published a series of poems and dramas, one of which latter, Kong Sverres Ungdom, 1837, attracted some notice, without securing much position. His popularity commenced with the appearance of his Poems Old and _Yew in 1848, and has only lately begun to decline. Andreas Munch makes little or no appeal to the highest poetical susceptibilities ; his work is melodious, facile, and graceful, but without depth of feeling or artistic beauty. His highest level as a poet was reached by his epic called Kongedatterens Brudefart (The Bridal Journey of the Ring's Daughter), 1861. Two of his historical dramas have enjoyed a popularity greatly in excess of their merit ; these are Solomon de Cans, 1854, and Lord William Russell, 1857. Munch published a fragment of an autobiography in 1874, with the title of Barndoms- og Ungdoms-minder (Memoirs of Childhood and Youth).
A group of minor poetical writers may now be considered. Magnus Brostrnp Landstad (1802-1881) was born on Maasii, an island in the vicinity of the North Cape, and therefore in higher latitudes than any other man of letters. He was a hymn-writer of merit, and he was the first to collect, in 1853, the Norske Folkeviser, or Norwegian folk-songs. Landstad was ordered by the Government to prepare an official national hymn-book, which was brought out in 1861. Peter Andreas Jensen (1812-1867) published volumes of lyrical poetry, mostly to edification, in 1838, 1849, 1855, and 1861, and two dramas. He was also the author of a novel, En Erindring (A Souvenir), in 1857. Aasmund Olafsen Vinje (1818-1870) was a peasant of remarkable talent, who was the principal leader of the movement known as the " maalstrcev," an effort to distinguish Norwegian from Danish literature by the adoption of a peasant dialect, or rather a new language arbitrarily formed on a collation of the various dialects. Vinje wrote a volume of lyrics, which he published in 1864, and a narrative poem, Storegut (Big Lad), 1866, entirely in this fictitious language, and he even went so far as to issue in it a newspaper, Dam (The Dalesman), which appeared from 1858 to Vinje's death in 1870. In these efforts he was supported by Ivar Aasen, to whom we shall return, and by Kristoffer Jansen (b. 1841), now the only remaining " maalstrcever," who resides in the United States, and who is the author of various important works,-an historical tragedy, Jon Arason,1867 ; several novels, -Fraa Bygdom,1865 ; Torgrim, 1872 ; Fra Dansketidi, 1875 ; Han og Ho, 1878 ; and Austanfyre Sol og Vestanfyre Mamie (East of the Sun and West of the Moon), 1879 ; besides a powerful but morbid drama in the ordinary language of Norway, En Kvindeskjebne (A Woman's Fate), 1879. Superior to all the preceding in the quality of his lyrical writing was the late bishop of Christiansand, Jorgen Moe (1813-1882), author of three little volumes of exquisite verses, published in 1850, 1851, and 1853. He is, however, better known by his labours in comparative mythology, in conjunction with P. C. Asbjornsen.
The mixture of such opposite elements as the wild genius of Wergeland and the cold critical judgment of Welhaven would seem to have formed a singularly happy basis for the writers of the next generation to build a literature upon. The now-living poets of Norway may hold their own without fear of too severe a rivalry, not merely with those of Denmark and Sweden, whom they easily excel, but with those of the great powers. There can be no reasonable question that Ibsen and Bjornson are the two most original figures of their generation in the Teutonic world of imagination. But their eiaergy, and that of their companions, has been almost entirely confined to two fields,-the drama and the novel. The narrative and epical forms of poetry, and even the lyric in its more ambitious directions, have not flourished in the modern Norwegian school. The most conspicuous name in Norwegian literature is that of Henrik Ibsen (b. 1828). His early efforts were not remarkable, and to this day he has not succeeded in any field but the drama, where he is a master. His first tragedy, Catilina, 1850, was a work of little importance. It was not until 1856 that he came forward with a romantic drama, Gildet paa Solhaug (The Feast at Solhaug), in which an individual style was noticeable. Two successive tragedies, Fru Inger til Osteraad, 1857, and Hfermeendene paa Helgeland (The Warriors on Helgeland), 1858, displayed a sudden development of power. In 1863, at last, he wrote an historical tragedy, Kongsemnerne (The Pretenders), which is a work of maturer genius. He had by this time, however, been drawn into a new channel. In 1862 he began his series of lyrico -satirical dramas on modern Norwegian life with his Kjserligheolens Komedie (Love's Comedy), a brilliant study, which was succeeded by two masterpieces of a similar kind, Brand in 1866, and Peer Gynt in 1867. These were long dramas, written entirely in octosyllabic rhyming verse. In De Unges Forbund (The Young Men's League), 1869, which was a political satire of much force, he abandoned verse, and has since written all his dramas in prose. In 1871 he collected his lyrical poems, and in 1873 he published Keiser og Galilieer (Emperor and Galilean), a double drama of portentous size, on the career of Julian the Apostate. Since that time he has published, about once in every two years, satirical comedies of. great pungency and wit, laying bare some sore of modern social life among his countrymen,-Samfunclets Stotler (The Pillars of Society), in 1877 ; El Dukkehjem (A Doll's House, or Nora), in 1879 ; Gengangere (Ghosts), in 1881 ; and En Folkefiende (An Enemy to the People), in 1883. The last of these is a humorous apology for the poet's severity as a satirist, which in his latest works has seemed excessive even to his greatest admirers. He has lived in voluntary exile from Norway since 1864.
It has been a misfortune to Bjornstjerne Bjornson (b. 1832) that he was born four years later than Ibsen, with whose powers his might else be more exactly matched. It is possible that in some i respects his mind is more richly endowed than Ibsen's, and it would seem to be more versatile ; the elder poet, however, is the superior artist, and has his qualities under more severe control. Bjornson has made several false starts ; Ibsen scarcely one. The first successes of Bjornson were made in the field of the novel, where he adapted from the German school of " dorfgeschichten," a species of realistic and yet romantic tale of life among the peasants in the mountains, which was singularly charming and attractive. Of these the two first, Synnove Solbakken, 1857, and Arne, 1858, were among the best, and made his name famous. His ambition, however, was to excel in dramatic writing, and after three comparative failuresHatte Hulda (Halting Hulda), 1858 ; Mellein Slagene (Between the Battles), 1859 ; and Kong Sverre (King Sverre), 1861-he made a great success with his heroic trilogy of Sigurd Slembe 1862. In the meantime small sketches of peasant life, and the exquisite little story called En Glad Gut (A Merry Lad), had supported his reputation. In 1863 he brought out a tragedy of Maria Stuart i Skotlaud, and in 1865 a little comedy De Nygifte (The Newly-married Couple), which enjoyed an overwhelming success. Another story, Fiskerjenten (The Fisher-Girl), in 1868, was found less fresh and unaffected than his early stories, and he returned to his charming pristine manner in Brudeslaaten, 1873. Since that year he has published but one novel, Magnhild, 1877, and a slight study of Italian life, Kaptejn Xansana, 1879, neither quite worthy of his genius. All his other productions have been dramatic. Fired with emulation for Ibsen, he has written Sigurd Jorsalfar, in 1873, an historical saga-drama, and a series of satirical comedies, - En Fallit (A Bankruptcy), 1875, an admirable piece ; Redaktoren (The Editor), 1875 ; Kongen (The King), 1877, a political manifesto in four acts ; Leonarda, 1879 ; Det ny System (The New System), 1879 ; En Handske (A Glove), 1883 ; and Over .iEvne (Beyond his Reach), 1883, - the last a very singular study of epileptic hysteria as a factor in religious enthusiasm. Bjornson is a republican of the most advanced order, and his views are pushed forward too crudely for artistic effect in several of his later works.
Two writers of novels who owe much to the example of Ibsen and Bjornson are Jonas Lie (b. 1833) and Alexander Kielland (b. 1849). Lie was late in developing his talent, and has lost much time in wavering between the sentimental and the realistic schools of treatment. He has finally thrown in his cause with the latter in his last novel Livs- Slaven, 1883. His best books have been stories of seafaring life - Den Fremsynte (The Man with the Second Sight), 1870 ; Tremasteren Fremtiden (The Threemaster "Future "), 1872 ; Lodsen og haws Hustru (The Pilot and his Wife), 1874 ; and Rutland, 1880. His tales of town-life - Thomas Ross, 1878, and Adam Schroder, 1879 - have less of the novelist's illusion. Kielland may prove to possess a stronger talent than Lie ; his progress has been more rapid and steady, and he has a clearer idea of what he wishes to do. He began by being strongly influenced by Zola in his Garman og Worse, 1879, and his Arbeidsfollc (Working People), 1880. His latest works have shown steady improvement in style and a growing independence of French models. From this, the youngest of distinguished Norwegian writers, we may turn back to a few older names which close the list of novelists. Nicolai Ramm Ostgaard (1812-1873) to some extent preceded Bjornson in his graceful romance En 1Yeldbygd (A Mountain Parish), in 1852. Frithjof Foss, who wrote under the pseudonym of Israel Dehn (b. 1830), attracted notice by a series of no less than seven separate stories published between 1862 and 1864, but has been silent since. The two most important women-novelists have been Jacobine Camilla Collett (b. 1813), a cousin of the poet Wergeland, author of Amtmandens Dottre (The Governor's Daughters), 1855, an excellent novel, and many other volumes ; and Anna Magdalene Thoresen (b. 1819), a Dane by birth, author of a series of novels.