H.C. Andersen set med engelske øjne

Elias Bredsdorff

H.C. Andersen har i dagbøger, breve og i „Mit Livs Eventyr” fortalt udførligt om sit indtryk af de mange notabiliteter, han traf på sine to besøg i England i 1847 og 1857 og på sin rejse i Skotland i 1847. Om andre englændere og skotter, som han traf enten i Danmark eller på sine øvrige rejser, foreligger der også en del førstehåndsindtryk.

Denne artikel skal imidlertid udelukkende beskæftige sig med den anden side af billedet — hvordan englænderne og skotterne så på H.C. Andersen. Om dette spørgsmål får man af gode grunde kun mangelfuld besked gennem læsningen af „Mit Livs Eventyr”, for de oprigtigste udtalelser om Andersens person var naturligvis dem, som var rettet til andre end den danske digter selv, og som han følgelig ikke kendte, og hvad den engelske kritik angår, foretrak Andersen altid kun at citere sådanne udtalelser, som kastede glans over ham selv og kunne bruges til at ramme den danske kritik med. Endelig var det ret tilfældigt, hvad han så af den engelske kritik, og mange af de interessanteste engelske udtalelser om hans forfatterskab har han slet ikke kendt.

I det følgende skal først anføres en række udtalelser om det indtryk, som H.C. Andersens person gjorde på en række af de englændere og skotter, som han traf i årene 1841—75; kun ganske få af disse udtalelser har H.C. Andersen selv kendt.

Personlige indtryk

Det tidligste engelske indtryk af H.C. Andersen skyldes den engelske opdagelsesrejsende William Francis Ainsworth, en fætter til romanforfatteren William Harrison Ainsworth. Den danske digter og den engelske opdagelsesrejsende mødtes i begyndelsen af maj 1841 på damperen „Ferdinando I” i Bosporus, hverefter de sammen sejlede gennem Det Sorte Hav og landede ved Kostendsche, hvor de overnattede. I karantænen i Orsova opholdt de sig sammen i ti dage, og i „En Digters Bazar” omtaler Andersen med få ord samværet med den sympatiske unge englænder. Da „En Digters Bazar” i 1846 udkom på engelsk, vakte bogen en sådan opsigt, at W. F. Ainsworth på opfordring af „The Literary Gazette”s redaktør skrev en kort artikel om sit erindringsbillede af den nu berømte danske digter. Denne artikel tryktes i „The Literary Gazette” den 10. oktober 1846 under overskriften „Herr Andersen”. Den indledes med disse ord:

„Full well do I remember the poet Andersen. I was introduced to him on board the steamer Ferdinando Primo, in the Golden Horn, about half-past eight in the evening of the 4th May, 1841, by a distinguished Austrian officer, who had served in the Syrian campaign, and who called my attention to the poet as to a very clever individual who had improvised with great success at a soirée of Baron Stürmer’s. Herr Andersen was a tall young man, of prepossessing appearance, pale colour, yet somewhat delicate; brown hair, and sharp nose and features, with a very very slight slouch in his gait, and the sidling movement of an abstracted man. He was friendly and cheerful in conversation, although restless and préoccupé; but there was that extreme simplicity in his manners and confidence in others that made it impossible not to entertain feelings of regard and interest for him at once …”

Om samværet i karantænen skriver Ainsworth: „I certainly rejoiced very much in the good fortune that had given me so pleasant, and in every respect so gentlemanly a companion in durance vile; I use the term ’gentlemanly’ considerately, for his manners were in every respect those of a person of cultivated intellect and refined feelings. Although always cheerful and companionable, there was never anything light or frivolous in his conduct …” Herefter giver Ainsworth eksempler på H.C. Andersens harmløse humor, omtaler hans oprigtige religiøsitet og fromhed og hans evne til at lave karakteristiske papirklip.

William Jerdan. Picture Post Library.

Knap et år efter denne artikels fremkomst — i sommeren 1847 — besøgte H.C. Andersen for første gang England og Skotland. Den, der først af alle havde tilskyndet ham til dette besøg, var William Jerdan, redaktøren af „The Literary Gazette”, og Jerdan tog sig i London med rørende omhu af sin danske protegé. Da Andersen havde været 3 uger i London, skrev William Jerdan i sit tidsskrift en anmeldelse af den da lige udkomne „The True Story of My Life”, hvori han indledede med at give et indtryk af H.C. Andersens personlighed, som han selv havde lært den at kende gennem tre ugers samvær. Jerdan skrev i denne indledning:

„Long and highly admired at a distance, and his writings established with a most popular hold on the mind of England, Herr Andersen has now been three weeks amongst us, in the literary and refined society of London, converting that admiration and popularity into warm personal regard, affectionate esteem, and cherished friendships. Every one who has met him is delighted with his character, in which is united to acknowledged originality of genius and poetic imagination, a simplicity the most captivating, and a candour and truth of that rare nature which lays the individual soul, as it were, open to the view of the most heedless observer. Some one has spoken of the peril which must attend the having a window in your breast; Andersen has such a window, and, instead of exposing him to inconveniency or danger, it seems to invite no other feelings but those which do honour to our common humanity — sincere regard, entire confidence, and unworldly love. To us it has been a kind of psychological curiosity to study the influence of his perfect unreserve and transparent singleness of being upon all around him. Those approaching in any degree his own ideal temperament are strangely excited; the moderately sensitive are charmed into a corresponding exaltation; and even the circles indurated by habits of business, and active pursuits in life, appear to breathe another air, and to have discovered that there are existences and enjoyments of a superior order — and all reflected from the conversation and conduct of one natural man. We can assure our distant readers that it is no fanciful picture; in his sphere Hans Christian Andersen is the counterpart of Jenny Lind, that pure and noble representative of the other sex …”

Lady Marguerite Blessington. Picture Post Library.

Omtalen slutter med disse linjer: „We will not again go over the encomiums with which we began this paper; but we will say, that there is not a syllable of flattery or rose-colouring in them; for it is impossible to meet with him, even for an hour, without feeling a degree of personal attachment, inspired by a character understood at one glance, and the more it is seen made only the more admirable”.

Det var William Jerdan, der bragte H.C. Andersen sammen med den berømte Lady Blessington, og om hendes opfattelse af H.C. Andersen kan vi også danne os et uhildet indtryk ved at læse, hvad hun skrev i et privat brev til William Jerdan, der havde overbragt hende Andersens hilsner, da denne i 1848 skrev til Jerdan fra København. Lady Blessington skrev til Jerdan: ,,I have seldom felt so strong an interest in a person of whom I saw so little; for he interested me as being quite as good as he is clever, and of how few authors could we say this!”

William Allingham. Picture Post Library.

En tredie engelsk litterat, med hvem H.C. Andersen sluttede venskab i London i sommeren 1847, var Charles Boner, en af Andersens første engelske oversættere. Hans breve til Andersen er fulde af venskabserklæringer, men et mere objektivt udtryk for hans følelser får man ved at se, hvad forfatterinden Mary Russell Mitford skrev til en af sine veninder, idet hun heri refererede, hvad hendes gode ven Boner havde fortalt hende om H.C. Andersen: „He (Andersen) is the lion of London this year — dukes, princes, and ministers are all disputing for an hour of his company; and Mr. Boner says that he is perfectly unspoilt, as simple as a child, and with as much poetry in his everyday doings as in his prose.”

Leigh Hunt. Picture Post Library.

Blandt de mange beundrere, som opsøgte H.C. Andersen i London i 1847, var også den da purunge og endnu helt ukendte digter William Allingham. Den 5. juli 1847 opsøgte Allingham den danske digter på hans hotel på Leicester Square, men H.C. Andersen troede, det var en tigger, og fejede ham kort af. Om dette møde skrev William Allingham i sin dagbog: „A short interview with Hans Andersen. He had not English enough to allow of our conversing, asked me to write to him; but I have nothing to say save that I love him, and many people tell him that. He is tall and lanky, with a queer long face, but friendliness and intelligence shining throgh. Feels out-of-sorts in London.”

Af William Allinghams dagbog fremgår det også, at H.C. Andersen i London ligeledes traf den kendte skribent og kritiker Leigh Hunt, der over for Allingham omtalte den danske digter på følgende måde: ,,I met Andersen the other day at dinner and we were mutually unintelligible. I had the pleasure of feeling his arm, his arm in mine, on the way to dinner; it was the thinnest arm I ever felt. He looks like a man in the last stage of consumption; but, observe, I don’t know that he is in the last stage of consumption. He looks like a large child, a sort of half-angel. There were many people of rank present, yet no one in the room looked more distingue than Andersen, the shoe-maker’s son.”

Blandt de englændere, som H.C. Andersen kom til at stå personligt nærmest, var forlæggeren Richard Bentley og hans familie. Gentagne gange besøgte han dem i deres herskabelige hus i Seven-oaks, og i 1857 fornyede han venskabet med familien Bentley. Om H.C. Andersens besøg i Sevenoaks i 1847 skrev Richard Bentley få år før sin død i tidsskriftet „Temple Bar”:

„Andersen honoured me with a visit at my house at Sevenoaks, with which lovely spot and its beautiful neighbourhood he was perfectly delighted. He was a true lover of nature, and was charmed with the glorious sylvan scenery around that rich garden of gay wild flowers; its noble beeches and cultivated gardens; its varied forests and shrubs. In the guilelessness and simplicity of his character he seemed to us a Danish Goldsmith. He visited with me Knole House, with its brown Gallery of old pictures, and the stately drawing-room with its full-lengths of George III and Queen Charlotte. After visiting Lord Stanhope’s lovely place at Chevening, he went to see Chantrey’s masterpiece in the church there. But his heart was with natural objects, and on leaving the church, he said, „Ah! these things are excellent, but give me these grand old oaks.” ”

Af Richard Bentleys talrige breve til H.C. Andersen fremgår det med stor tydelighed, hvilke varme følelser han nærede for ham. Det må her være nok at citere to breve, det første fra Richard Bentley til H.C. Andersen, skrevet den 23. november 1847, hvori det hedder: „It is one of these never-to-be-effaced gratifications to me, which occur so seldom in life, that I may be ranked among the friends of Hans Christian Andersen!” Det andet citat stammer fra et brev fra Miss Annie Bentley, der den 1. oktober 1871 — tre uger efter Richard Bentleys død — skrev til H.C. Andersen om sin fader: „One of his last pleasures was hearing your book „The Story of My Life” read aloud to him by me, it was the only work that interested and diverted him from languor, and he and I often stopped and talked of you, and he said all sorts of warm and affectionate things of you …”

Mary Howitt.

Richard Bentleys ældste søn, George Bentley, har i sine private, utrykte memoirer også omtalt H.C. Andersens besøg i Sevenoaks; det hedder heri bl.a.:

„Sevenoaks days were happy days to us all. — It was my father’s delight to gather around him as many of his family and his friends as he could induce to come and be with him. Here Hans Andersen paid him a visit, and charmed us all by his simplicity and naïveté, his quaint and broken English and his graceful pretty stories. Well do I remember one morning when our younger sister, now lying peacefully in her tomb in the beautiful cemetery at Torquay, then a mere girl of twelve or thirteen, came in on the bright summer morning, all in white and glowing with health, how Andersen rose from the breakfast table, and hailed her with ’Ah! the little standard rose!’”

Det sidste indtryksbillede af H.C. Andersen fra London-opholdet i 1847, som her skal citeres, er betydeligt mere kritisk end nogen af de foregående. Det stammer fra Andersens engelske oversætterinde Mary Howitt, hvis selvbiografi i 1889 blev udgivet af hendes datter. Heri fortæller Mary Howitt om sine oversættelser af Andersens værker, om sin korrespondance med digteren og om hans besøg i England. Det hedder heri bl.a.:

„Unfortunately, the over-sensitive and egotistical nature of this great Danish author much marred our intercourse. I may give, as an example, an incident that occurred on July 31, 1847. We had taken him, as a pleasant rural experience, to the annual hay-making at Hillside, Highgate, thus introducing him to an English home, full of poetry and art, of sincerity and affection. The ladies of Hillside, the Misses Mary and Margaret Gillies — the one an embodiment of peace and an admirable writer, but whose talents, like the violet, kept in the shade; the other, the warm-hearted painter — made him cordially welcome. So, too, our kind and benevolent host, Dr. Southwood Smith, who was surrounded at this merry-making by his grandchildren, Gertrude Hill and her sisters. The guests likewise were equally anxious to do honour to Andersen.

Immediately after our arrival, the assembled children, loving his delightful fairy-tales, clustered round him in the hay-field, watched him make them a pretty device of flowers; then feeling somehow that the stiff and silent foreigner was not kindred to themselves, stole off to an American, Henry Clarke Wright, whose admirable book, „A Kiss for a Blow”, some of them knew. He, without any suggestion of condescension or of difference of age, entered heart and soul into their glee, laughed, shouted, and played with them, thus unconsciously evincing the gift which had made him earlier the exclusive pastor of six hundred children in Boston.

Elizabeth Rigby. Picture Post Library.

Soon poor Andersen, perceiving himself forsaken, complained of headache, and insisted on going indoors, where Miss Mary Gillies and I, both most anxious to efface any disagreeable impression, accompanied him; but he remained irritable and out of sorts.”

I begyndelsen af august 1847 forlod H.C. Andersen London og rejste op til Skotland. Her traf han en række af tidens kendteste skotske forfattere og forfatterinder, og blandt disse sidste Elizabeth Rigby — den senere Lady Eastlake — til hvem han havde en introduktion fra hendes kusine Lady Stanley. Den 12. august besøgte H.C. Andersen Miss Rigby, og da han var gået, skrev hun i sin dagbog:

„I was sitting alone writing, when Andersen the Danish poet, was ushered in: a long, thin, fleshless, boneless man, wriggling and bending like a lizard with a lantern-jawed, cadaverous visage. Simple and childlike, and simpletonish in his manner. We had a great deal of talk, and after so recently reading his life, he seems no stranger to me. His whole address and manner are irresistibly ludicrous.”

Men Elizabeth Rigby fik lejlighed til at revidere sin meget kritiske dom over H.C. Andersen, for en ugestid senere spiste han middag hos hende sammen med andre indbudte gæster, og denne gang var tonen i hendes dagbog anderledes. I sin dagbog for den 18. august skrev Miss Rigby:

„Andersen dined with us. He had one stream of interesting talk — perhaps rather too much of himself, but to me that was novel and entertaining. His descriptions of Rachel and Jenny Lind most characteristic, each the symbol of Art and Nature. Spoke of the King of Denmark in the highest terms, and was hopeful about the Crown Prince. He said he had written to the King since he had been in England, just as he would have written to any other person. Altogether he left a most agreeable impression both on mind and heart, especially on the latter, for his own seemed so affectionate. No wonder he finds people kind; all stiffness is useless with him, as he is evidently a simple child himself. He is struck with the religion in England, and says that Hegel’s philosophy is doing harm in Denmark.”

Allerede i sommeren 1847 mødtes H.C. Andersen og Charles Dickens, men først i sommeren 1857 lærte de hinanden nærmere at kende. At Dickens’ første indtryk af den danske digter var meget sympatisk, kan der ikke være tvivl om, for i alle de breve, som Dickens sendte H.C. Andersen mellem 1847 og 1857 var tonen overstrømmende hjertelig, og han opfordrede vedholdende Andersen til at komme tilbage til England igen. Den 31.8.1847 skrev Dickens: „When you come back to England — which you must take an oath today to do soon — I shall hope to see you often in my house in London . . i januar 1848 skrev han: „Come to England again, soon!”; den 4.6.1849 skrev han: „We feel jealous of Stockholm and jealous of Finland, and we say to one another that you ought to be at home and nowhere else (unless in England where we should receive you most heartily) . . .”; den 5.7.1856 skrev han: „And you, my friend—when are you coming again? . . . You ought to come for another visit. You ought to come to me, for example, and stay in my house. We would all do our best to make you happy . . dette brev sluttede endog med denne kraftige erklæring: „I assure you that I love and esteem you more, than I could tell you on as much paper as would pave the whole road from here to Copenhagen”; endelig var Dickens’ brev af 3.4.1857 een eneste hjertelig opfordring til Andersen om at tilbringe sommeren som Dickens’ gæst på Gad’s Hill.

Det sætter unægtelig Dickens i et ejendommeligt lys, at han den 3. juni 1857, altså en ugestid før H.C. Andersen kom til England, kunne skrive til Miss Burdett-Coutts i en temmelig overlegen tone: „Hans Christian Andersen may perhaps be with us, but you won’t mind him — especially as he speaks no language but his own Danish, and is suspected of not even knowing that…” Og da Andersen havde været hos Dickens en månedstid, skrev denne igen til Miss Burdett-Coutts om sin danske gæst: „We are suffering a good deal from Andersen. The other day we lost him when he came up to London Bridge Terminus, and he took a cab by himself. The cabman driving him through the new unfinished street at Clerkenwell, he thought he was driving him into remote fastnesses, to rob and murder him. He consequently arrived here, with all his money, his watch, his pocket book, and documents, in his boots — and it was a tremendous business to unpack him and get them off. I have arrived at the conviction that he cannot speak Danish; and the best of it is, that his Translatress declares he can’t — is ready to make an oath of it before any magistrate.”

Et sidste vidnesbyrd om Dickens’ irritation over H.C. Andersen er at finde i et brev, som Dickens den 21. juli — knap en uge efter at H.C. Andersen havde forladt England — skrev til William Jerdan, og hvori det bl.a. hed:

„Andersen went to Paris, to go thence to Dresden and thence home, last Wednesday morning. I took him over to Maidstone, and booked him for Folkstone. He had been here for five weeks. He had spoken of you with much regard, and, I understand or fancied, had seen you. But whenever he got to London, he got into wild entanglements of cabs and Sherry, and never seemed to get out of them again until he came back here, and cut out paper into all sorts of patterns, and gathered the strangest little nosegays in the woods. His unintelligible vocabulary was marvellous. In French or Italian, he was Peter the Wild Boy; in English, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum. My eldest boy swears that the ear of man cannot recognise his German, and his translatress declares to Bentley that he can’t speak Danish!

One day he came home to Tavistock House, apparently suffering from corns that had ripened in two hours. It turned out that a cab driver had brought him from the City, by way of the new unfinished thoroughfare through Clerkenwell. Satisfied that the cabman was bent on robbery and murder, he had put his watch and money into his boots — together with a Bradshaw, a pocket-book, a pair of scissors, a pen-knife, a book or two, a few letters of introduction, and some other miscellaneous property.

These are all the particulars I am in condition to report. He received a good many letters, lost (I should say) a good many more, and was for the most part utterly conglomerated — with a general impression that everything was going to clear itself up tomorrow.”

Dickens’ næstyngste søn, den senere Sir Henry Dickens, udgav i 1934 sine memoirer, og heri omtaler han også H.C. Andersens besøg på Gad’s Hill. Han skriver heri om Andersen bl.a. følgende:

„He turned out a lovable and yet a somewhat uncommon and strange personality. His manner was delightfully simple, such as one rather expected from the delicacy of his work. He was necessarily very interesting, but he was certainly somewhat of an „oddity”. In person, tall, gaunt, rather ungainly; in manner, thoughtful and agreeable. He had one beautiful accomplishment, which was the cutting out in paper, with an ordinary pair of scissors, of lovely little figures of sprites and elves, gnomes, fairies and animals of all kinds which might well have stepped out of the pages of his books. These figures turned out to be quite delightful in their refinement and delicacy in design and touch. Much as there was in him to like and admire, he was, on the other hand, most decidedly disconcerting in his general manner, for he used constantly to be doing things quite unconsciously, which might almost be called „gauche”: so much so that I am afraid the small boys in the family rather laughed at him behind his back; but, so far as the members of the family were concerned, he was treated with the utmost consideration and courtesy. On the first morning after his arrival, for instance, he sent for my eldest brother to shave him, to the intense indignation of the boys; and with the result that he was afterwards driven every morning to the barber’s at Rochester to get the necessary shave.

At dinner time, on the same day, he greatly embarrassed my father, who was offering his arm to a lady to take her into dinner, by suddenly seizing his hand, putting it into his own bosom and leading him triumphantly into the dining-room.”

Også fra Dickens’ næstældste datter, Mrs. Kate Perugini, foreligger der et erindringsbillede af H.C. Andersen, mindre overbærende end broderens. I Gladys Storeys bog „Dickens and Daughter”, der bygger på Mrs. Peruginis mundtlige meddelelser, hedder det om H.C. Andersen og Charles Dickens:

„They had met ten years previously, yet, on closer acquaintance, Hans Andersen appeared extremely odd to the family. Not only on account of his tall, ungainly appearance, but in consequence of certain characteristics and unusual incidents which punctuated his visit to them. One morning Mrs. Dickens found him prostrated face downwards upon the lawn, in tears and clutching a newspaper received that day from Denmark, which contained an adverse criticism regarding his latest book.

Hans Andersen’s scant knowledge of the English language, which he spoke falteringly and with very broken accent, made it extremely difficult for him to express himself distinctly, or to be adequately understood in conversation; which disadvantage may, in part, have led Mrs. Perugini, when asked her opinion of the man, to reply:
„He was a bony bore, and stayed on and on.”

As for Dickens himself, despite his pressing invitation, his acclamation of the Dane’s genius, and his untiring exertions to render the visit an enjoyable one, he could not — after his guest’s departure — resist the temptation of writing on a card which he stuck up over the dressing-table mirror:

’Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES!’”

Lord Lytton. Picture Post Library.

Skønt H.C. Andersen efter sommeren 1857 aldrig mere kom til England, foreligger der forskellige andre engelske førstehåndsindtryk af ham, stammende fra de senere år af hans liv. Den 17. maj 1861 besøgte H.C. Andersen i Rom den allerede da dødssyge engelske digterinde, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, der den følgende dag skrev til en af sine veninder, Miss Isa Blagden:

„Andersen (the Dane) came to see me yesterday — kissed my hand, and seemed in a general verve for embracing. He is very earnest, very simple, very childlike. I like him. Pen[1] says of him, „He is not really pretty. He is rather like his own ugly duck, but his mind has developed into a swan.” — That wasn’t bad of Pen, was it?”

Og til Thackeray skrev Mrs. Browning den 21. maj: „Hans Christian Andersen is here, charming us all, and not least the children …”

Elizabeth Barrett Brownings sidste digt, „The North and the South”, var en hyldest til H.C. Andersen. Det er aftrykt i „Mit Livs Eventyr”.

En af ægteparret Brownings nære venner var den engelske diplomat og digter Edward Robert Lytton, der i 1880 blev ophøjet til Earl of Lytton, og hvis forfatterpseudonym var „Owen Meredith”.

Andersen traf ham i København i 1864, og to år senere i Cintra i Portugal. Robert Lytton var da 1. legationssekretær ved den britiske legation i Lissabon og indbød den danske digter til at være sin gæst i hans hjem i Cintra. Herom skrev Robert Lytton den 18. august 1866 til Mr. Wilfrid Blunt:

„Andersen, the Danish poet (the „ugly duckling”) has been here, and quite in his element. One day, when he dined with us, I read aloud after dinner to my wife and the Brackenburys one of his little stories: and he was so well pleased with my doing this, that he jumped up and kissed me, as Mrs. Disraeli would say, „all over”. He is a perfect faun, half child, half God.”

De tre sidste indtryk af H.C. Andersen stammer alle fra hans sidste leveår og er skrevet af unge engelske skribenter, der traf ham i Danmark.

I efteråret 1871 tilbragte en ung engelsk dame ved navn Annie Wood seks uger som familien Henriques’ gæst på deres landsted „Petershøi” ved Emiliekilde, og i knap fjorten dage af denne periode var H.C. Andersen også familiens gæst. Efter sin hjemkomst til England skrev Miss Wood i hvert fald tre artikler, som alle er baseret på hendes erindringer om samværet med den gamle danske digter. Det vil her føre for vidt at referere de to ret lange artikler, som Miss Wood skrev i tidsskriftet „Temple Bar” i henholdsvis februar 1875 og december 1877, og det må være tilstrækkeligt her at citere nogle uddrag af den nekrolog, som hun den 14. august 1875 skrev i ugebladet „The Spectator”, og hvori hun ret skånselsløst udleverede det naragtige og frastødende hos den gamle mand, som hun erindrede sig ham. Det hedder bl.a. i Annie Woods nekrolog:

„It is hard to fancy city and suburb without his familiar, shabby, ungainly, slouching figure, in its ill-fitting, unbrushed clothes — (he always wore flapping trousers which touched the toes of his gigantic boots, and a shawl, his own or anybody’s, it did not matter, wrapped round his shoulders), — and his ugly musing face, abstracted-seeming, but keenly observant too, with its high, receding forehead, its close-set eyes, and the steep incline from the top of the forehead to the nape of the neck, as if the back of the head had been sliced away …

… a child, according to the ideal of childhood; keenly sensitive, entirely egoistical, innocently vain, the centre of life, interest, concern and meaning to himself, perfectly unconscious that there existed another standard, an outer circle, taking it for granted that everywhere and in everything he was to be first and all; glad with the gladness, sorrowful with the passing grief, of childhood, petulant and pouting, downright, without a notion of reticence, or indeed of modesty, but equally without a notion of evil or indecency; full of optimist satisfaction when all was well with himself, and yet incapable of self-seeking, or design of any kind; disinterested as much from ignorance of advantage to be gained or objects to be sought, as from the nobler source of disinterestedness; incapable of considering the convenience, or of understanding the ways and methods of other people; in a word, always interesting, but sometimes troublesome…

He was perfectly regardless of the ordinary forms of social life; his personal habits were exceedingly careless, not to say repulsive; he was not agreeable as a next neighbour, or as observed from over-the-way, at a dinner-table, for he ate voraciously, and he was a decidedly dirty feeder; he had no notion of time, and as pertinaciously required every one to be at his beck and call as any curled darling in the nursery who is at once the plague and the joy of the household …

Wherever he was, he was invariably served first at table, and he was deeply aggrieved at a departure from this custom on the occasion of ,,the English Rose’s” arrival at the house, near Copenhagen, where he was then staying. He became silent, sulked, would not eat, and disappeared early in the evening. The next morning their hostess came to the English guest and asked her if she would mind not being helped first, „it made And’sen so unhappy”; he went to the kitchen, and told the servants he could see they no longer loved him, since they thought more of the English lady than of him …

The ’name-day’ of the „English Rose”, as he called her — befell while she was in the same house with the poet, and several other guests were also there. After the pretty Danish fashion, her hostess gave her a name-fête, of which the Rose was queen, with her right to choose a king for the day. Her privileges were explained, and she prepared to declare her choice, but she had reckoned without „dear And’sen”, who greeted her at once with, — „I — I — yes, And’sen himself will be your choice; you shall say that And’sen was your name-day king,” — and so it had to be. He never left her side all day; he was as constant as one of his own storks, and his entire conviction of her proud content was so simple and so manifest, that no one could have ridiculed it who located any heart or the faintest sense of humour …”

Edmund W. Gosse. Fot. København 1874.

Også i Miss Woods andre artikler er der mange oplevede eksempler på den gamle mands eventyrlige forfængelighed, på hans pylrethed og hans forskellige naragtigheder, men som et supplement til Annie Woods temmelig hårdhændede nekrolog kan det måske være passende at citere et afsnit fra hendes egen første artikel i „Temple Bar”:

„His is a simple nature, easy to read in his every-day relations with his fellows. I was charmed with him as a companion. Living in the same house with him, in the free unrestrained intercourse of the country, I spent many a delightful hour by his side, drinking in the wondrous fancies of his brain and listening to his quaint talk, which seemed to come from some far-away world into which he alone, of all I had ever met, had gained admittance. In the cool of the afternoon he liked to walk in the fields with any of our party who were so inclined. For the first quarter of an hour he would not talk much, but shamble along, poking his stick into every hole and corner, or touching with it every odd thing that lay in his path. Then something would attract his attention — a bit of glass, a faded flower, or a half-eaten insect — no matter what it was, he would stoop and pick it up, touch it tenderly, bend over it caressingly, and then, in a kind of low, half regretful tone, he would begin and tell the story of its life, its joys, its sorrows, and the sad destiny which brought it to the spot where he had found it, till I would stand listening in hushed awe, looking at the thing in his hand, and then at the dreamy face speaking so earnestly, and wonder if the man had really a soul and body belonging to this same earth that all the rest of us dwelt in so prosaically, or if he would presently vanish into the spirit realm from whence he gathered his fanciful ideas, and be no longer by our side …”

I 1872 kom den unge engelske litterat — og senere berømte forfatter og kritiker — Edmund W. Gosse til København, og den 22. juli besøgte han H.C. Andersen på ,,Rolighed”. Gosse skriver herom i sin bog „Two Visits to Denmark”:

„Suddenly, however, as we were seated in the living-room, there appeared in the doorway a very tall, elderly gentleman, dressed in a complete suit of brown, and in the curly wig of the same shade of snuff-colour. I was almost painfully struck, at the first moment, by the grotesque ugliness of his face and hands, and by his enormously long and swinging arms; but this impression passed away as soon as he began to speak. His eyes, although they were small, had great sweetness and vivacity of expression, while gentleness and ingenuousness breathed from everything he said. He had been prepared to expect a young English visitor, and he immediately took my hand in his two big ones, patting and pressing it. Though my hands have no delicacy to boast of, yet in those of Hans Andersen they seemed like pebbles in a running brook, as E. B. B. might say.

The face of Hans Andersen was a peasant’s face, and a long lifetime of sensibility and culture had not removed from it the stamp of the soil. But it was astonishing how quickly this first impression subsided, while a sense of his great inward distinction took its place. He had but to speak, almost but to smile, and the man of genius stood revealed. I experienced the feeling which I have been told that many children felt in his company. All sense of shyness and reserve fell away, and I was painfully and eagerly, but with almost unprecedented success, endeavouring to express my feelings to him in Danish. Andersen had at one time possessed considerable knowledge of English, and understood how to read it, but had ceased to speak it with any ease. The rest of the company tactfully left us alone, and Andersen conversed about the many happy memories he had of England, his two bright visits to Charles Dickens, the shock of grief he had felt at Dickens’ death, and his hope to come again some day to London …”

I maj 1874 var Edmund Gosse igen i Danmark, og han besøgte for anden gang H.C. Andersen, denne gang i Nyhavn. Herom hedder det i „Two Visits to Denmark”:

„As I entered the bright, pretty sitting-room, Hans Christian Andersen was coming in from an opposite door. He leaned against a chair, and could not proceed. I was infinitely shocked to see how extremely he had changed since I had found him so blithe and communicative, only two years before. He was wearing a close-fitting, snuff-coloured coat, down to his heels, such a burnt-siena coat as I remember to have seen Lord Beaconsfield wear as he went walking slowly up Whitehall, on Mr. Corry’s arm, in the later ’sixties. This garment, besides being very old-fashioned, accentuated the extreme thinness of Andersen’s tall figure, which was wasted, as people say, to a shadow. He was so afflicted by asthma that he could not utter a word, and between sorrow, embarrassment and helplessness, I wished myself miles away …”

En ugestid senere aflagde Gosse sit tredie og sidste besøg hos den gamle digter; Gosse skildrer dette besøg med disse ord:

„I found him in his sitting-room dressed to go out and, even to my great surprise, posed before the camera of a photographer. I waited in the background until this performance was concluded; it had tired him very much, and I only stopped a few minutes longer. He was affectionate and pathetic; he spoke of the great illustrated edition of his ’Fairy Tales’ which was then in preparation for the following Christmas, and promised to send me one of the earliest copies — „if I live till then, ah! dear, — if only I live till then!” His servants were bustling around us, in the midst of packing up for a visit he was paying to Count Danneskjold-Samsöe; it was thought that the air of the city was bad for him, and he was being hurried away to the country. He was sad, but not agitated; he said farewell with much tenderness; his last words were ’Remember me in your dear and distant country, for you may never see me again!’ This was, indeed, the last occasion on which I was to see Hans Christian Andersen, who died on August 4 of the following year.”

Den sidste englænder, som traf H.C. Andersen, var utvivlsomt George Browning, en forholdsvis ukendt litterat, der besøgte den gamle digter ialt tre gange i perioden 18.1.—6.5.1875. Efter sit første besøg skrev Browning i sin dagbog:

„Kant was right when he said Paradise is here on earth; it is to be found in the society of intellectual men and women. No greater pleasure — in the essence of its meaning — have I enjoyed than half an hour’s conversation with the world’s fairy story-teller, Hans Christian Andersen, this afternoon; to whom I was the bearer of letters from Iceland. It is a landmark to be remembered through life; and a lesson to be taken well to heart, how a man, in the space of a few minutes, is able to win over the affections and induct sympathies that touch the very core …

But only to look on his face, that is to read there humour, goodness, gentleness, and benevolence. From his portraits no good idea can be formed of his nature, but one glance at his face reveals all. There is a quiet merry little twinkle in his eye, sarcastically inclined, yet that is not the word, nor can we say satirical but in a different sense to that commonly so understood — there fails the word, but the impression that this quiet merry little twinkle conveys is, that the mind of the poet is brimful of roguish innocence — roguishly innocent is the right term. After making many inquiries about my stay in Reykjavik, and the mode of travelling in Iceland, its difficulties and pleasures, he began to speak of Copenhagen, and wished he had the strength to show me some of the art treasures of which it is so proud, but he seldom goes out of the house in this winter-time. ’Ah,’ said he, ’if I can only get over the winter I shall be stronger and better when the springtime comes,’ — and here, as many times previously, he gasped for breath …”

Denne brogede mosaik af atten forskellige englænderes indtryk af H.C. Andersens person kan måske supplere og udvide vort billede af digteren, som han var, og som han virkede på sine medmennesker — på godt og ondt. Nogle har kun set det charmerende barnlige, det genialt fantasifulde og det ubetinget elskelige i Andersens karakter, andre har mest haft øje for det komiske og naragtige, forfængeligheden og selvoptagetheden, som tiltog med årene, mens andre igen har givet et mere facetteret portræt af den danske digter. Men sætter man mosaikstykkerne sammen, danner de et morsomt og levende portræt af H.C. Andersens person.

Engelske udtalelser om H.C. Andersens forfatterskab

Om de egentlige anmeldelser af H.C. Andersens forskellige værker skal her ikke tales; i mine to bøger „H.C. Andersen og Charles Dickens” og „H.C. Andersen og England” er ialt cirka hundrede engelske anmeldelser citeret fra tiden 1845—75.

Hensigten med de følgende linjer har derimod været at samle en buket af udtalelser om H.C. Andersens forfatterskab i al almindelighed, fra 1845 til 1952, for derved at vise, hvordan forskellige englændere til forskellige tider har reageret over for H.C. Andersens forfatterskab.

Allerede i juli 1845 kunne Mary Howitt skrive til H.C. Andersen, at englænderne havde opdaget, at Danmark havde rige litterære skatte — „and even before Ingemann we placed the name of Andersen. In February this translation of your Improvisatore was published — and I am glad to say has made you many friends. Your name is now an honoured one in England …”

De mange engelske anmeldelser bekræfter Mary Howitts ord, og det samme gør forskellige udtalelser i samtidige breve. Den 18. april 1845 skrev Elizabeth Barrett Barrett til sin senere mand, Robert Browning: „Have you read the ’Improvisatore’? or will you? The writer seems to me to feel, just as I do, the good of the outward life; and he is a poet in his soul. It is a book full of beauty and had a great charm to me.” Herpå svarede Robert Browning den 30. april, at han kun kendte bogen fra fordelagtige anmeldelser, og tilføjede: „That a Dane should write so, confirms me in an old belief — that Italy is stuff for the use of the North, and no more — pure Poetry there is none, nearly as possible none, in Dante even — material for Poetry in the pitifullest romancist of their thousands, on the contrary …” Miss Barrett fandt, at Browning havde været for hård ved italienerne, og han trak tildels sine udtalelser tilbage, men tilføjede i sit brev af 3. maj 1845: „But they do fret one, those tantalizing creatures, of fine passionate class, with such capabilities, and such a facility of being made pure mind of. And the special instance that vexed me, was that a man of sands and dog-roses and white rock and green seawaves just under, should come to Italy where my heart lives, and discover the sights and sounds . . certainly discover them. And so do all Northern writers.”

Den 13. august 1845 skrev Elizabeth Barrett Barrett igen til Robert Browning om sit nu noget reviderede syn på H.C. Andersen: „But if you complain of George Sand for want of art, how could you bear Andersen, who can see a thing under his eyes and place it under yours, and take a thought separately into his soul and express it insularly, but has no instinct towards wholeness and unity; and writes a book by putting so many pages together — just so!” Miss Barrett har åbenbart på det tidspunkt glemt sin egen begejstring for Andersen, som også fandt udtryk i et brev fra hende til Cornelius Mathews, hvori det bl.a. hed: „And tell me if you have been taken and charmed as I have been, by the prose romance of the ’Improvisatore’ translated from the Danish of Andersen by Mary Howitt, and call it prose — but the poetry of it is true and rare.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Picture Post Library.

Et andet vidnesbyrd om, hvor stor interesse H.C. Andersens forfatterskab vakte i engelske litterære kredse, har vi i et brev fra William Makepeace Thackeray til W. E. Aytoun den 2. januar 1847, hvori det hedder: „And Hans Christian Andersen, have you read him? I am wild about him, having only just discovered that delightful fanciful creature.”

Til dette citat kan føjes, hvad Charles Dickens i januar 1848 skrev i et af sine første breve til H.C. Andersen: „But whatever you do, don’t leave off writing, for we cannot afford to lose any of your thoughts. They are too purely and simply beautiful to be kept in your own head.”

Fra den engelske romanforfatterinde Mary Russell Mitford fore-ligger der en række udtalelser om H.C. Andersens forfatterskab i hendes breve til Charles Boner. Hun var en nær ven af Boner, men delte visselig ikke hans begejstring for H.C. Andersen. Den 23. februar 1848 skrev Miss Mitford til Boner:

„I foresee that the Andersen and Fairy Tale fashion will not last; none of these things away from general nature do. There is, after all, a sameness and a poverty in all that does not belong to our common kind which never really sustains itself. Two or three of Andersen’s stories, such as „The Ugly Duck” (in spite of its hideous title), will last for ever, like Undine, but as a class they will soon go down, sooner in our country than anywhere else …

I had a talk over the matter with Mr. Griffith,[2] who agreed with me that Andersen would certainly not last as a child’s classic. He mixes a satire which is neither within their comprehension nor desirable if it were …”

Den 9. april 1848 skrev Miss Mitford igen til Charles Boner om sin uvilje mod H.C. Andersen:

„The last thing I read of Andersen’s was his „Autobiography”, and between the vanity of the writer, and the baldness and poverty of the translation, I was completely disgusted. I did not think it possible to so entirely do away with the interest of the rise of a poor boy into intellectual eminence. But he has no sympathy with his own order — he is essentially a toad-eater, a hanger-on in great houses, like the led captains of former days, a man who values his acquaintances for their rank and their riches and their importance in the world; not one who, like you, fills with honour and independence the most honourable and useful part in a great family, but one who uses fame merely as a key to open drawing-room doors, a ladder to climb to high places. Of all living writers the one most free from this fault is Beranger, and at his feet one could cast oneself in admiration. But I doubt Andersen, and in a different way (for the sin and weakness of ambition) I doubt Lamartine.”

Da Charles Boner i februar 1851 spurgte Miss Mitford, om hun kunne sige ham noget om H.C. Andersens rejsebog „I Sverrig”, der da lige var udkommet på engelsk, svarede hun ganske kort: „I have not heard of Andersen’s book. He had a momentary reputation in England, but it is quite past and gone. We are an ungrateful people, and knock down our idols to avenge our own idolatry …”

I efteråret 1851 udsendte en ung skotsk forfatter ved navn William Hurton på Richard Bentleys forlag en bog, „Pictures of Scandinavia in 1850″. Bogen var tilegnet H.C. Andersen, som Hurton havde truffet i København, og med hvem han havde brevvekslet. I et kapitel om dansk litteratur og danske forfattere forekommer følgende afsnit om H.C. Andersen:

„Nothing astonishes the Danes more than that their countryman, Hans Christian Andersen, has attained such an unrivalled popularity in England. I have conversed with many on the subject, both at Copenhagen and elsewhere, and all agree that Andersen, in their estimation, holds only a secondary place compared with some other Danish authors. Presuming this opinion to be correct, one certainly would derive a very high opinion of the genius of the authors alluded to. Andersen’s countrymen do not deny that he is a highly-gifted man; nor are they insensible to his peculiar merit. All they contend for is, that his genius is essentially of a less lofty order than that of such beings as Oehlenschläger. They admit that he is a true diamond, but not a surpassingly brilliant one. What I have myself read of Andersen’s writings is quite sufficient to impress me with a notion that he is the Goldsmith of Denmark …”

Sammenligningen mellem H.C. Andersen og Oliver Goldsmith uddybes i et følgende kapitel, hvori det bl.a. hedder:

„Without instituting anything like a close parallel between the career and writings of these two great men, it may be observed, that both earned fame solely by the persevering legitimate exertion of their genius; both led for some time an adventurous, wandering life; both are remarkable for the frequent personal revelations they introduce into their works; both have a style, which for grace and geniality is unrivalled in their respective languages; both draw the most enchanting pictures of domestic felicity, although passing their lives in bachelorhood; both are noted for their childlike simplicity and love of little ones; and both have won the warm and enduring esteem of all who have enjoyed their friendship …”

I 1852 udkom på Bentleys forlag en ny bog om Danmark, denne gang skrevet af en ung englænder, Andrew Hamilton, der ligeledes havde truffet H.C. Andersen og korresponderet med ham. Bogens titel var „Sixteen Months in the Danish Isles”, og om H.C. Andersen skal blot følgende afsnit citeres fra bogen:

„Him we know better than most of his landsmen, and I do not dwell upon him. Yet I must express my true admiration for this singular genius. In Denmark he is not done justice to, and although much read in England, I question whether he is done justice to either. I look on him as a most original soul, one whom his country ought to cherish as among its rarest possessions. It is very tedious to hear the reactionary parrot-cry against him, simply because ignorant people at first prized for qualities he had not, and not for those he had, and then discovering that the imagined elements were wanting, wisely concluded he had no elements of genius in him at all. I believe his fables will bear their novelty and originality with them down to the end of time.”

I 1852 udgav Mary Howitt sammen med sin mand, William Howitt, en skandinavisk litteraturhistorie på engelsk, „The Literature and Romance of Northern Europe”. Ægteparrets oprindelige begejstring for H.C. Andersens forfatterskab var nu kølnet ganske betydeligt! Efter kort at have omtalt Andersens liv og rost de af hans værker, som Mary Howitt selv havde oversat, fortsætter dette afsnit:

„But Andersen’s subsequent productions have been failures; those published in England have dropped nearly dead from the press; and the reason for this is very obvious. Andersen is a singular mixture of simplicity and worldliness. The child-like heart which animates his best compositions appears to your astonished vision in real life, in the shape of a petit-maître sighing after the notice of princes. The poet is lost to you in the egotist; and once perceiving this, you have the key to the charm of one or two romances, and the flatness of the rest; for he always paints himself — his own mind, history and feelings. This delights in the first story, less in the second, and not at all in the third; for it is but crambe repetita.

Perhaps much of Andersen’s fame in this country arose from the very fact of the almost total ignorance here of the host of really great and original writers which Denmark possessed. Andersen stood forward as a wonder from a country of whose literary affluence the British public was little cognizant, while in reality he was but an average sample of a numerous and giant race.”

Man skal dog ikke heraf drage den slutning, at H.C. Andersens anseelse i England var på retur. Tre citater fra kendte engelske tidsskrifter må være nok her til at bevise det modsatte. Den 13. oktober 1855 skrev „Chambers’s journal” som indledning til en omtale af den danske udgave af „Mit Livs Eventyr” følgende:

„What British boy or girl does not know the name of Hans Christian Andersen, the kindly, genial, quaint, and loving storyteller of Denmark? — the chronicler of that immortal „Ugly Duckling”, whose „Eventyr” has invested with romantic interest the quackings of every web-footed denizen of the poultry-yard. In many a nursery, the warlike ’tin-soldier’ (now invariably a Russian, as he used to be a Frenchman), the top, the ball, and even Nurse’s darning-needle, have all become so many deathless heroes of romance, through the magic touch of this gentle Scandinavian enchanter …”

Og den 13. december 1856 bragte „The Illustrated London News” denne notits, der skyldtes rygter om, at H.C. Andersen ville komme til England den vinter:

„Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy novelist of Denmark, comes to winter in England, and will be very welcome; and if there be any mother so ignorant of her duties to the nursery as not to have provided it with the fairy legends — in which the commonest articles of every-day life are endowed with an existence, and with passions and caprices, in the most delightful way; the extreme of gravity and whimsicality blending in dialogues and narratives of the richest humour — let her forthwith repair her fault, and thank Hans Christian Andersen for thus giving us an opportunity of recommending her to do so. The children of England should erect a Christmas-tree in the Crystal Palace in his honour.”

I oktober I860 indeholdt „Blackwood’s Magazine” en lang arti-kel om „Proverbs”, hvoraf et par uddrag skal citeres:

„Yet higher than them all, purer than William Adams, brighter than Wilberforce, more varied than Ruskin, is the great Danish fabulist, Hans Christian Andersen. Fable never took such shapes of beauty, or such disguises of wisdom before. The wonderful Tales from Denmark — indeed, all his writings — are equally marked by the same inexhaustible ingenuity, and the same exquisite simplicity and truth. In other fables we find the chief effort made at a clever parallelism between the thing meant and the thing spoken … — But open Hans Andersen. Minute identities are omitted: he carries you on with a delightful story at which children gape as supernatural and impossible, but to which the wise man listens with still more attention; for in this supernatural and impossible he recognises everyday life and experience. Instead of tying himself and his reader down to the close fitting of his tale, he leaves the attentive listener impressed at the end with the double sensation of having been a theatre and a church. He has laughed at clowns doing the most preposterous actions and speaking the most ludicrous nonsense; and afterwards discovers that he has received a very serious lecture — a reprimand for thoughtless conduct, and encouragement to mend his ways …”

Margaret Gatty. Picture Post Library.

Den 20. februar 1866 skrev en af det victorianske Englands kendteste børnebogsforfatterinder, Mrs. Margaret Gatty, hvis ,,Parables from Nature” var umådeligt populære i England, et brev til H.C. Andersen, hvori der forekom følgende afsnit:

„It is quite a pleasure to me to feel that I am writing to the Author of Tales which have for years been the delight of our family of eight children — now pretty well emerged from children — but not the less loving the dear old volumes of Hans Christian Andersen and rushing at each new one as one of the treats of life. I also cannot forget that had it not been for reading your Tales, I might never have written my own „Parables from Nature” which, though turning in another direction, are instigated by the perusal of some of your wonderful fancies …”

At Mrs. Gatty imidlertid ikke fandt H.C. Andersens eventyr tilstrækkeligt moraliserende, fremgår bl.a. af, hvad hendes datter, Juliana Horatia Ewing, skrev om hende i forordet til den samlede udgave af „Parables from Nature” i 1880: „On the other hand, when Hans Andersen’s fairy tales, with all their sympathy for every corner of creation, took her fancy quite by storm, she complained that so many of them were only quaint and taught nothing; imperfect devices — the body without the soul!”

Juliana Horatia Ewing gik i sin moders fodspor og blev en lige så højt elsket engelsk børnebogsforfatterinde. Hun erklærede selv, at hendes første bøger var skrevet „in imitation of Andersen”, og i et brev til sin engelske forlægger, George Bell, skrev hun herom:

„They were scribbled down to illustrate a saucy theory, put forward half in joke, that the recipe for ’writing like’ the great Danish story-teller she so deeply admired, was to keep your body quite still, to select the smallest object within range of vision, confine your sympathies to that, and then let your admiration go.”

Andersens romaner var blevet glemt i England, men hans ry som eventyrfortæller voksede stadig. Den 22. december 1866 bragte ugebladet „The Spectator” en artikel om „Children’s Books”, hvori det bl.a. hed:

„The first of them is our old friend, and everybody’s old friend, Hans Andersen, in a complete edition; about him there can be no difference of opinion; people who hold the most opposite views as to the proper book for a child will shake hands over him; and any boy who has not been introduced to the mixture of tenderness, humour, and fancy in which his morals are inoffensively conveyed, will be held excusable by us if he turns out as bad as possible, breaks his thoughtless mother’s heart, and reduces his improvident father to financing. For children who have been taught to revel in his delightful tales, can hardly be dull or cruel, when they have learnt to hold pleasant converse with everything that runs, or creeps, or flies about them, nay, with everything that puts forth a leaf or a flower, they move in a busy world of their own, in which they occupy a very dignified position and rise to the responsibility of administering justice in mercy through an extensive domain …”

Da H.C. Andersen den 2. april 1875 fyldte 70 år, bragte Londonbladet „Daily News” en leder, som formede sig som en hyldest til den danske eventyrdigter. Nogle uddrag af denne leder skal citeres her:

„Hence a Danish poet like Andersen finds it no easy matter to pass the wall of ice which severs the genius of the North from that of England and France, as Brynhild was guarded from her lovers by the fence of fire. Only the fame of Ibsen is vaguely rumoured, only Thorwaldsen is widely known in plastic art. But Hans Andersen, the son of the cobbler of Odensee, is a household word, and the creations of his fancy have passed into the great Pantheon where Shakespeare’s people, and Homer’s and Scott’s, enjoy a life less perishable than that of mortal men …

It has been given to Hans Andersen to fashion beings, it may almost be said, of a new kind, to breathe life into the toys of childhood, and the forms of antique superstition. The tin soldier, the ugly duckling, the mermaid, the little match girl, are no less real and living in their way than Othello, or Mr. Pickwick, or Helen of Troy. It seems a very humble field in which to work, this of nursery legend and childish fancy. Yet the Danish poet alone, of all who have laboured in it, has succeeded in recovering, and reproducing, the kind of imagination which constructed the old world fairy tales …

It is only a writer who can write for men that is fit to write for children …”

Efter H.C. Andersens død har en del engelske skribenter og essayister i forskellige artikler og bøger beskæftiget sig med hans forfatterskab. Af disse skal i det følgende en halv snes stykker omtales.

Mrs. Molesworth – en kendt og elsket børnebogsforfatterinde -udsendte i 1893 en bog, „Studies and Stories”, indeholdende forskellige essays, deriblandt et om H.C. Andersen, hvis betydning hun forsøgte at gøre op. Et par enkelte citater skal gengives herfra:

„But it would be to narrow quite unfairly the scope and extent of Andersen’s peculiar genius were we to consider it as altogether or even mainly limited to literature for the young. Much, indeed, that he has written is not altogether beyond the comprehension and sympathy of children, but decidedly — as will be afterwards pointed out more definitely — unsuited and undesirable for them. Those of his stories and fables seemingly intended for the young are at the same time full of charm and interest for those of older growth, and this, perhaps, has unconsciously led to the misapprehension that all he wrote (his novels, of course, excepted), was with a special view to the pleasure and profit of the younger generation. And very defined „intention”, strictly speaking, in this sense, he probably was without. He wrote as he was moved, and as he felt he must. His own essentially childlike spirit pervades the whole, is indeed the keynote to its beauty, but he gave his work to the world unfettered by restrictions and conditions. It is for us, his grateful readers, parents and teachers especially, to discriminate as to what we find suited to the little ones among us. And this fact has, I think, in England especially, been somewhat overlooked in the rather heterogeneous translations and collections commonly spoken of in the mass as „Andersen’s fairy tales” …

This generations, it is not too much to say, will not have time fully to gauge and realize the good work which Hans Andersen helped to accomplish. The inauguration of a new era in child literature was but a part of it, though a great one; for truly to children he may be said to have changed the face of the world, gilding the commonest objects with the brightness of his loving and delicate and humorous fancy, so that, as many could personally testify, a few shells or pebbles, a broken jug or a fragment of china, become material enough with which to construct stories, to their little inventors as wonderful and interesting as those of the thousand-and-one nights; while from the tall fir-tree to the tiniest daisy-bud, all nature, through his magic spectacles, grows instinct with sympathy and meaning …”

I 1895 udkom Robert Nisbet Bains i mange henseender fortræffelige engelske levnedsskildring af H.C. Andersen, „Hans Christian Andersen — A Biography”, forsynet med et motto taget fra Amiel: „Un esprit de femme dans un charactère d’enfant.” Denne bog bygger væsentlig på de indtil da foreliggende danske kilder, og den skal ikke nærmere omtales her.

Edmund W. Gosse har i adskillige engelske tidsskrifter, og også i nogle af sine bøger, beskæftiget sig med en vurdering af H.C. Andersens forfatterskab. Her skal kun citeres et par enkelte uddrag af det forord, som Gosse skrev til H. L. Brækstads nye oversættelse af eventyrene, der udkom i 1900 på Heinemanns forlag, forsynet med Hans Tegners illustrationer:

„It would not be easy to make an Englishman or a Frenchman understand how startlingly lax and puerile the conversations in these little stories of Andersen’s appeared; perhaps a German would realise it better. It was the first time that children and uneducated people of the lower middle-class had been allowed to speak in Danish literature, and their naïvetés and their innocent picturesqueness were at first an absolute scandal. Conceive what Johnson and Burke would have thought of „Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and you have a parallel to the effect of „Little Claus and Big Claus” upon academic Denmark …

The child’s want of clear distinction between the seen and the unseen, the experienced and the impossible; its naïve acceptance of animals and flowers, and even of the winds and the stars and the inanimate domestic objects around it, as creatures allied to itself, with which it may be in mutual comprehension, the dullest of which (in fact) is more in sympathy with it than an ordinary „grown-up person”, — all this was realised by Andersen with a clairvoyance which becomes almost supernatural when we recollect that no previous writer had ever seriously dreamed of it, and that this was a little chamber of literature into which even Shakespeare had never forced his way.

It has taken the world sixty years to become perfectly assured that Andersen, in his own best line, is an author of the very highest originality, that — given the particular genre — he is as great in it as Milton or — shall we say? — Molière in his. Nothing less than this can be claimed for Andersen, — absolute supremacy in his own special field …”

I 1910 udsendte Hilaire Belloc en af sine berømte essay-samlinger; den havde titlen „On Anything”. Heri var også et kort essay om H.C. Andersen, hvorfra følgende linjer skal citeres:

„I will bargain that if our letters survive five hundred years, this excellent writer will quietly survive. Even the French may incorporate him. And next it is the business of one who praises so much to ask in what the excellence of this writer consists. It is threefold: in the first place, he always said what he thought; in the second place, he was full of all sorts of ways of saying it; and, in the third place, he said only what he had to say …

Andersen, then, had all these three things which make a great writer, and a very great writer he is.

Note that he chose his framework, or, at any rate, that he was persuaded to it. He could not have been so complete had he not addressed himself to children, and it is his glory that he is read in childhood. There is no child but can read Hans Christian Andersen, and I at least have come across no man who, having read him in childhood, does not continue to read him throughout life. He wrote nothing that was not for the enlivening or the sustenance or the guiding of the human soul; he wrote nothing that suggested questions only. If one may speak of him in terms a trifle antiquated (or rather for the moment old-fashioned), he was instinct with charity, and therefore he is still full of life.

Having said so much of Andersen in general, something should be said of him in particular. He was Northern; you always feel as you read him that if his scene is laid in the open air, the air is fresh and often frosty; that if he is talking indoors the room is cosy and often cold. Certain passions which the North lacks are lacking in him, both upon their good and upon their evil side. He is never soldierly, and he is never revengeful; he is never acute with the desire for life, but, again, he is never envious. Those who read him and who are also Northern may well be in love with Denmark …”

Også Hilaire Bellocs ven og store samtidige, G. K. Chesterton, hyldede den danske eventyrdigter. Det skete i hans bog „The Crimes of England”, der udkom i 1915, og hvori han i et kapitel, der hedder „Hamlet and the Danes”, skrev følgende afsnit om H.C. Andersen:

„But, moreover, by that coincidence which dogs this drama, the English of that Victorian epoch had found their freshest impression of the northern spirit of infancy and wonder in the work of a Danish man of genius, whose stories and sketches were so popular in England as almost to have become English …

When the English romantics wanted to find the folk-tale spirit still alive, they found it in the small country of one of those small kings, with whom the folk-tales are almost comically crowded. There they found what we call an original writer, who was nevertheless the image of the origins. They found a whole fairyland in one head and under one nineteenth-century top hat. Those of the English who were then children owe to Hans Andersen more than to any of their own writers, that essential educational emotion which feels that domesticity is not dull but rather fantastic; that sense of the fairyland of furniture, and the travel and adventure of the farmyard. His treatment of inanimate things as animate was not a cold and awkward allegory: it was a true sense of a dumb divinity in things that are. Through him a child did feel that the chair he sat on was something like a wooden horse. Through him children and the happier kind of men did feel themselves covered by a roof as by the folded wings of some vast domestic fowl; and feel common doors like great mouths that opened to utter welcome. In the story of „The Fir Tree” he transplanted to England a living bush that can still blossom into candles. And in his tale of „The Tin Soldier” he uttered the true defence of romantic militarism against the prigs who would forbid it even as a toy for the nursery. He suggested, in the true tradition of the folk-tales, that the dignity of the fighter is not in his largeness but rather in his smallness, in his stiff loyalty and heroic helplessness in the hands of larger and lower things …”

En anden kendt engelsk forfatter og essayist, L. V. Lucas, skrev også et essay om H.C. Andersen, „The True Wizard of the North”, som blev trykt i hans essay-samling ,,’Twixt Eagle and Dove”, der udkom i 1918. Slutningen af denne artikel gengives nedenfor:

„It is, as I have said, by his fairy tales that Hans Andersen lives and will ever live. There he stands alone, supreme. As a whole, there is nothing like them. One man of genius or another has now and then done something a little in this or that Hans Andersen manner. Heine here and there in the „Reisebilder”; Lamb in „The Child Angel” and perhaps „Dream Children”; and one sees affinities to him occasionally in Sir James Barrie’s work (the swallows in The Little White Bird, for example, build under the eaves to hear the stories which are told to the children in the house, while in Hans Andersen’s „Thumbelina” the swallows live under the poet’s eaves in order to tell stories to him); but Hans Andersen remains one of the most unique and fascinating minds in all literature. Nominally just entertainment for children, these „Eventyr og Historier” are a profound study of the human heart and a „criticism of life” beyond most poetry. And all the while they are stories for children too; for though Hans Andersen addresses both audiences, he never, save in a very few of the slighter satirical apologues, such as „The Collar” and „Soup from a Sausage Skewer”, loses the younger. He had this double appeal in mind when, on a statue being raised in his honour at Copenhagen just before his death, showing him in the act of telling a tale to a cluster of children, he protested that it was not representative enough.

I would apply to Hans Andersen rather than to Scott the term „The Wizard of the North”; because whereas Scott took men and women as he found them, the other, with a touch of his wand, rendered inhuman things — furniture, toys, flowers, poultry — instinct with humanity. He knew actually how everything would behave; he knew how a piece of coal talked, and how a nightingale. He did not merely give speech to a pair of scissors, he gave character too. This was one of his greatest triumphs. He discerned instantly the relative social positions of moles and mice, bulls and cocks, tin soldiers and china shepherdesses. He peopled a new world, and, having done so, he made every incident in it dramatic and unforgettable. He brought to his task of amusing and awakening children gifts of humour and irony, fancy and charm, the delicacy of which will probably never be surpassed. He brought also an April gift of tears and smiles, and a very tender sympathy with all that is beautiful and all that is oppressed. He did not preach, or, if he did, he so quickly rectified the lapse with a laugh or a quip that one forgets the indiscretion; but he believed that only the good are happy, and he wanted happiness to be universal. Hence to read his tales is an education in optimism and benevolence.”

Den nylig afdøde engelske kritiker og essayist Robert Lynd — kendt under pseudonymet „Y. Y.” i ,,The New Statesman” — udsendte i 1922 en bog kaldet ,,Books and Authors”, der også indeholdt et essay om H.C. Andersen. Herfra er følgende citater uddraget:

„Hans Andersen is surely the least gay of all writers for children. He does not invent exquisite confectionery for the nursery such as Charles Perrault, having heard a nurse telling the stories to his little son, gave the world in „Cinderella” and „Bluebeard”. To read stories like these is to enter into a game of make-believe, no more to be taken seriously than a charade. The Chinese lanterns of a happy ending seem to illuminate them all the way through. But Hans Andersen does not invite you to a charade. He invites you to put yourself in the place of the little match-girl who is frozen to death in the snow on New Year’s eve after burning her matches and pretending that she is enjoying all the delights of Christmas. He is more like a child’s Dickens than a successor of the ladies and gentlemen who wrote fairy-tales in the age of Louis XIV and Louis XV. He is like Dickens, indeed not only in his genius for compassion, but in his abounding inventiveness, his grotesque detail, and his humour. He is never so recklessly cheerful as Dickens with the cheerfulness that suggests eating and drinking. He makes us smile rather than laugh aloud with his comedy …

Andersen’s genius as a narrator, as a grotesque inventor of incident and comic detail, saves his gospel from commonness. He may write a parable about a darning-needle alive, like a dog or a schoolboy. He endows everything he sees — china shepherdesses, tin soldiers, mice and flowers — with the similitude of life, action and conversation. He can make the inhabitants of one’s mantelpiece capable of epic adventures, and has a greater sense of possibilities in a pair of tongs or a door-knocker than most of us have in men and women. He is a creator of a thousand fancies. He loves imagining elves no higher than a mouse’s knee, and mice going on their travels leaning on sausage-skewers as pilgrims’ staves, and little Thumbelina, whose cradle was „a neat polished walnut-shell . . . but violet-leaves were her mattresses, with a rose-leaf for a coverlet.” His fancy never becomes lyrical or sweeps us off our feet, like Shakespeare’s in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But there was nothing else like it in the fairy-tale literature of the nineteenth century …”

Da Eton-rektoren M. R. James i 1930 udsendte sin nye oversættelse af 42 af H.C. Andersens Eventyr på Faber and Faber’s forlag, sluttede han sit interessante forord (om eventyrenes oprindelse) med disse ord: „I hope it is not necessary to praise Andersen at this time of day. I much prefer to let him speak for himself … ”

En mere fremragende oversætter, R. P. Keigwin, der i 1935 på Cambridge University Press udsendte H.C. Andersens første fire eventyr i ny oversættelse, udgivet på hundredårsdagen for deres første fremkomst i Danmark, benyttede heller ikke forordet til en lovprisning af forfatteren, men skrev klogt og indsigtsfuldt om Andersens sprog:

„He sprinkled his narrative with every kind of conversational touch — crisp, lively openings, to catch the listener’s attention at a swoop; frequent asides or parentheses; little bits of Copenhagen slang; much grammatical licence; and, above all, a free use of particles — those nods and nudges of speech, with which Danish (like Greek) is so richly endowed. So completely did Andersen maintain the conversational tone in his Tales that you are quite shocked when you occasionally come across some really literary turn …”

I 1937 dukkede en ny fremragende oversættelse op — Paul Leyssacs „It’s Perfectly True! and other stories”. Denne oversættelse var forsynet med et forord af Hugh Walpole, der bl.a. skrev:

„Hans Andersen was not, I would say, exactly a charming person. He was ugly, conceited, sensitive, quick-tempered, and elusive. As the hero of a novel he would annoy many readers. He would seem feckless and ungrateful, and a bit of a muff. And yet he is part of all of us. If you feel the pathetic and humorous and lonely uniqueness of human beings, you must know that only the very unperceptive and heavy-minded are irritated by him; and out of that strange personality he produced these wonderful fairy stories, wonderful because they are filled through and through with that sense of oddity and loneliness that gives human beings so much beauty …”

I anledning af H.C. Andersens 135 års fødselsdag i 1940 bragte „The Times Literary Supplement” en artikel om den danske digter. Som alle bladets artikler var denne anonym, men artiklens forfatter, der var ingen ringere end Walter de la Mare, lod senere dette essay optrykke i sin bog „Pleasures and Speculations”, der udkom hos Faber and Faber i 1940. Et par citater fra dette sympatiske essay skal anføres her:

„Hans Andersen was one of the Aladdins, the Dick Whittingtons, the Little Clauses among writers. It was these despised ’trifles’, fount-like improvisations, feats of pure nature and intuition rather than of art, strange and lovely tributes (like the books of the wanderer in ’The Shadow’) to whatever is true and good and beautiful, that were the sesame of this wizard’s life, his ’go’ and his luck. His enterprise, his indomitable faith and courage, his consummate vanity and self-confidence are traits which men of rare talent frequently share who have no ’bag of magic’ to spill in a glittering heap at the feet of the children of men …

And although his stories reveal almost every conceivable gift and grace, oddity, absurdity, whimsy and sentimentality dear to a childish fancy — a fancy to which the world and all that is in it is so much delicious clay in the hands of a potter, nevertheless a large number of them, and some of these among the best, appeal more directly to the ruminating, memory-bewitched mind of the grown-up.

Whatever their origin — and he gleaned his ideas from life and experience, from books, and friends — their atmosphere, their minute observation and inconsequentially are childlike — the childlike, that is, which is in part the invention of the mature. There is little distinction of things or of persons. Mouse and mother-snail, rose and needle, nightingale and spittoon, the flea in the blanket, the goblin in the church-tower, the angel in paradise share the same order of existence, the same ’rights’. They are in a lively intimacy with one another, are equal by virtue of their being completely and divinely themselves. Kings live in dressing-gowns and embroidered slippers as naturally as geraniums in pots and cats on the hearthrug. Tears and laughter are old playfellows. Pathos and humour share a sentence. And how perfectly homely and confidential it all is! …

Whatever their theme or their lesson, the stories are full of light and life, of songs and wings. They cover whole generations of time in a few pages. ’Years have rolled on,’ Andersen writes wistfully again and again. His little tin soldier is at one moment as immortally youthful as Eros, and at the next as old as the Pyramids. It is a green, enclosed unchanging little world, bushed with lavender and rosemary, and gilded vith perpetual sunshine. And yet — except when he himself frequents this source, and not always even then — his stories are curiously unlike those ancient literary crustaceans, the Household Tales, the Märchen.

The Märchen were part of the primitive furniture in daily use in the House of Life — even when, architecturally, that house consisted chiefly of four stone walls and a hole in the roof for a chimney. Andersen’s is a doll’s house, an entrancing plaything that he kept in an upper room. The folk tales are of a universal, human sediment. Andersen’s are peculiarly personal; their nature, human and otherwise, has been distilled and etherealized. There is almost as curious a difference between the two as there is between a flint arrow-head and a Victorian sampler. The wild bird of the folk tales sings, in Andersen’s, in an exquisite cage. And there is little doubt that until the mocking bird beloved of the pedagogical — who, like a dog with a dry bisquit, are intent on dates and syntax — takes its place, it will continue to win the best of all entranced listeners — children.”

I slutningen af sit essay gør Walter de la Mare forskellige bemærkninger om de dårlige engelske oversættelser af Andersen. I fire forskellige engelske oversættelser har han fundet det samme danske ord oversat ved fire vidt forskellige engelske ord, og han bemærker ironisk: “Danish must indeed be a chameleonic tongue.”

I 1948 udkom fire litterærkritiske essays af dr. Nesca A. Robb under den fælles titel „Four in Exile”. De fire forfattere, som bogen behandler, er A. E. Housman, Leopardi, Christina Rossetti og H.C. Andersen. Kapitlet om Andersen fylder ialt 34 sider, og kun et par enkelte uddrag af det skal her citeres:

„What Andersen gives us is neither a grown-up’s slightly patronising idea of what will please the young, nor the apeing of grown up thoughts and manners that marks many juvenalia, but an experience akin to the essential experience of childhood, a vision of things that lay too deep to be articulate, too intimately present to be resolved into elements. He opens up a world — or rather a „plurality of worlds” — in which one was accustomed to move freely, and whose inter-play was as ordinary — and as strange — as sunrise or sunset…

The more one reads, the more one marvels at that rich variety, so sealed as the work of a single imagination. In the same way Andersen contrives to be at once universal and local, for, if he is Everychild, in the way that Shakespeare is Everyman, he expresses much of that universal life through folk-lore and scenes and memories homely and personal as the fireside of his mother’s cabin …

Life, in Hans Andersen’s vision, is seen at a certain remove, as a child sees it, but there is no blinking of its realities. Its harsher aspects have the heightening of nightmare, just as its happier ones have the heightening of dream. It holds a full measure of mental and physical pain, of disaster and death — death too, that does not merely remove undesirables, as it commonly does in fairy-tales, but that snatches with the ruthlessness of actual fact the young, the beloved and the triumphant. At the very moment when one expects to read „they lived happily ever after,” Rudy is claimed by the Ice Maiden, and Helga forgets her prince in the ecstasy that rives her soul from her body …

If one were to catalogue the sorrows of Hans Andersen’s stories they would leave the impression of a world far more closely akin to that of Shakespeare’s tragedies than to that of the average book for „little people” …

There are, however, moments in which the nightmare element passes beyond all tolerable bounds and the pursuer becomes the pursued. Has anyone ever really enjoyed The Red Shoes? or The Story of a Mother, so heavy with the pain, more terror than sympathy, with which one watched the half-comprehended troubles of one’s elders? Its physical horrors of the piercing thorns and the eyes wept away, were overshadowed by such icy supernatural gloom as the final reconciliation could scarcely soften; it was like one’s first taste of the fear of death …

However complex a man’s development, however numerous his activities, he lives essentially in three things; in human relationships, in imagination, and in his relation to whatever final reality there may be. Because the child is less cumbered than his elders with superficial cares, this fundamental life of the spirit shines out in him unclouded. It is the miracle of Hans Andersen’s art that he is able to reveal it in terms of the child’s own private imagery, and to hold his attention both with the magic of the tales and with the sense of a full sympathy discovered and established, while giving to the adult a sequence of parables inexhaustibly rich.

Yet even as one sets down any interpretations of Andersen’s fables it takes on an arbitrary look, as do all analyses of living thought and feeling. By thus dividing and simplifying one may make one’s perception of the truth more precise, and still be conscious that the whole eludes definition. Andersen’s allegories, and even his individual figures, have about them something of the complexity of life; they change as one looks at them. Each is many things in one …

Thus it is that Andersen can restore a lost world to us in all its concrete richness, with its joys and wonders and sorrows, its very sights and sounds and smells. The atmosphere, the secret quintessence of childhood, lingered on in him, like the night-long afterglow in the northern sky. Yet the mind, brooding on those early apprehensions and imaginings, on the beauty and terror so intensely yet darkly discerned, moves continually on two planes; seeing the world through the eyes of childhood, looking back from his adult standpoint to interpret that vision to himself as a man, as a poet, and as a Christian. To be as a little child is certainly not, for him, to be irrational or gullible, immune from suffering or cut of touch with reality. It is rather to accept life humbly and spontaneously in its completeness, and to be, to the fullest of one’s capacity, a whole human being …”

Den sidste omtale af H.C. Andersens forfatterskab, som skal berøres, stammer fra en antologi, „Tales of Grimm and Andersen”, der udkom i Amerika i 1952, med et forord af den kendte engelske lyriker W. H. Auden, hvori det bl.a. hedder:

„Much, too, can be said against middle-class family life in the nineteenth century, but in the midst of its heavy moral discipline, its horsehair sofas and stodgy meals, the average child was permitted and even encouraged to lead an exciting life in his imagination.

There are more Gradgrinds now than there were then, and the twentieth century has yet to produce books for children equal to Hans Andersen’s Tales, Edward Lear’s Books of Nonsense, the two Alices, Struwelpeter, or even Jules Verne.”

„Hans Andersen, so far as I know, was the first man to take the fairy tale as a literary form and invent new ones deliberately. Some of his stories are, like those of Perrault, a reworking of folk material — „The Wild Swans,” for example, is based on two stories in the Grimm collection, „The Six Swans,” and „The Twelve Brothers” — but his best tales, like „The Snow Queen,” or „The Hardy Tin Soldier,” or „The Ice Maiden” are not only new in material but as unmistakably Andersen’s as if they were modern novels.

Compared with the Grimm tales, they have the virtues and the defects of a conscious literary art. To begin with, they tend to be parables rather than myths.

Little Kay was blue with cold — nay almost black — but he did not know it, for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, and his heart was little better than a lump of ice. He went about dragging some sharp flat pieces of ice which he placed in all sorts of patterns, trying to make something out of them, just as when we at home have little tablets of wood, with which we make patterns and call them a „Chinese puzzle.”

Kay’s patterns were most ingenious, because they were the „Ice Puzzles of Reason.” In his eyes they were excellent and of the greatest importance: this was because of the grain of glass still in his eye. He made many patterns forming words, but he never could find the right way to place them for one particular word, a word he was most anxious to make. It was „Eternity”. The Snow Queen had said to him that if he could find out this word he should be his own master, and she would give him the whole world and a new pair of skates. But he could not discover it.

Such a passage could never occur in a folk tale. Firstly, because the human situation with which it is concerned is an historical one created by Descartes, Newton, and their successors, and, secondly, because no folk tale would analyze its own symbols and explain that the game with the ice-splinters was the game of reason. Further, the promised reward, „the whole world and a new pair of skates,” has not only a surprise and a subtlety of which the folk tale is incapable, but, also a uniqueness by which one can identify its author.

It is rarely possible, therefore, to retell an Andersen story in other words than his; after the tough and cheerful adventurers of the folk tales, one may be irritated with the Sensitive-Plantishness and rather namby-pamby Christianity of some of Andersen’s heroes, but one puts up with them for the sake of the wit and sharpness of his social observation and the interest of his minor characters. One remembers the old lady with the painted flowers in her hat and the robber’s daughter in „The Snow Queen” as individuals in a way that one fails to remember any of the hundreds of witches and young girls in the folk tales …

Andersen’s story, „The Darning Needle,” on the other hand, presupposes no question about its protagonist…

Here the action is subordinate to the actors, providing them with a suitable occasion to display their characters which are individual, i. e., one can easily imagine another Darning Needle and another Bit of Bottle who would say quite different things. Inanimate objects are not being treated anthropomorphically, as in Grimm; on the contrary, human beings have been transmuted into inanimate objects in order that they may be judged without prejudice, with the same objective vision that Swift tries for through changes of size. The difference is one that distinguishes all primitive literature, that is, in attitude, not in technique, from modern …”

Vi har hørt 18 forskellige englændere udtale sig om H.C. Andersens person og 27 englænderes højst varierende anskuelser om H.C. Andersens forfatterskab. Det er interessant at bemærke, at i den sidste gruppe gives der ikke blot langt flere udtryk for begejstring end for modvillie (selvom denne også finder enkelte stærke udtryk), men der spores en voksende trang til at hæve sig over banaliteterne og forsøge at foretage en kritisk vurdering af den danske eventyrdigters geni.

Dog må man ikke heraf lade sig forlede til et for optimistisk syn på vurderingen af H.C. Andersen i England i almindelighed — eller endog i litterært interesserede kredse. Naturligvis kender enhver englænder endnu i dag H.C. Andersens navn, men selv velorienterede og belæste englændere forbavses ofte, når de hører, at man tillægger hans eventyr høj litterær værdi. At hans landsmænd udnytter ham merkantilt i turistpropagandaen, det forstår englænderne godt, men at de tilkender ham en stor og betydelig plads i litteraturen — det overrasker dem. Så meget væsentligere er det netop derfor at fremhæve de englændere, som i hvert fald har gjort sig den ulejlighed at læse H.C. Andersen igen som voksne og at tage hans forfatterskab alvorligt.



  1. ^ Ægteparret Brownings 12-årige søn.
  2. ^ Boners engelske forlægger.


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