Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author, particularly well known for his collections of fairy tales, such as ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. I found the facsimiles of writing very interesting (and hard to read!).
Does it not seem the most natural thing in the world that Hans Christian Andersen should leave behind him a scrap-book of unique charm and interest? This scrap-book is a very large folio, bound in a much-worn green cover, with, I think, about 112 leaves in various colours, white, pink, grey, blue, green, mauve, full of autographs, letters, portraits, drawings in pen and pencil, coloured pictures, printed matter, dried flowers, elaborate cuttings in paper, cartes de visite, etc., mementos of the most illustrious men and women of the century.
The words which Andersen has written under the accompanying photograph of himself, taken in his study, “Life itself is the most beautiful fairy tale,” could not have been more felicitously chosen–for to him, at least, life did prove a wonderful and delightful fairy tale. Born at Odense, in the Island of Fuhnen, on April 2nd, 1805, in a poor and humble home, he died, having reached the threescore years and ten, the possessor of the highest Danish title, decorated with orders innumerable, his works known and treasured all over the world, and he himself on terms of friendship with almost every distinguished person of his time. His father was a poor shoemaker, who, however, had not been without his craving for adventure, inasmuch as he had enlisted and fought in the wars of the great Napoleon, returning with blighted hopes and broken health to die when Hans was only a little boy. His widow earned a livelihood by washing for people. But Hans did not want to become an artisan; he felt he was meant for something better and greater; he wrote poetry and was fond of acting. After his confirmation he left the maternal home to try his luck in Copenhagen, an awkward, gawky, and lanky lad. He must, however, have had wonderful faith in himself, for he called upon a number of literary and dramatic celebrities, before whom he, generally unasked, recited his verses or performed some of his dancing. People as a rule were inclined to think him a little off his head, but there were a few who formed a more correct conception of the strange young fellow. He succeeded in being accepted as a pupil at the Royal Theatre, appeared in a few minor parts, but soon found out that he and the stage were hardly suited to each other. Through the assistance of friends he now began to go to school, eventually passing the students’ examination in 1828. Five years later he was allowed to have his first peep at the great world, visiting Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy. In after years he became a great traveller, of which his scrap-book bears testimony.
There are several letters from Charles Dickens, who calls him “Dear Hans Andersen,” signing himself “Affectionately and cordially” in one letter and in another “With admiration and regard”; also one from Wilkie Collins, which has reference to an amateur performance, of which the scrap-book likewise contains the programme. It was a “strictly private representation” given at the Gallery of Instruction, Regent Street, Saturday evening, July 4th, 1857, at nine o’clock. The performance, “under the management of Mr. Charles Dickens,” comprised “an entirely new romantic drama, ‘The Frozen Deep,’ by Wilkie Collins”–Charles Dickens, Alfred Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Shirley Brooks being amongst the actors, the ladies performing being only down with their Christian names–and “Two o’Clock in the Morning,” in which Charles Dickens played Mr. Snobbington’s part.
Eleven years later Wilkie Collins writes to his “dear Andersen,” saying that with reference to producing “The Frozen Deep” there is only one copy in existence; it had never been published for fear that it might get on to the public stage and do harm with the public by bad acting. He writes: “In the present deplorable state of our stage there is neither actor nor actress for the two principal parts in ‘The Frozen Deep.'”
The entry by Sir Walter Scott is interesting from the fact that he signs himself “affectionately”–a striking proof of the warm feeling which existed between the two great writers.
Jenny Lind has written under her portrait two lines in German, here given, which mean, being interpreted: “Art and Religion were given to men to show them the way to another life.” One letter, in which she asks him to come and dine with her and her husband, she has signed “With true friendship, yours sincerely,” and another, “Your sincere sister, Jenny.” The great Rachel writes in April, 1843: “L’Art, c’est le Vrai!” and Georges Sand, “Venez a 2 h.–, cher ami.”
Lord Palmerston writes in French: “I shall have much pleasure in seeing the Chevalier Andersen this evening. A thousand compliments.”
The contribution of Alexandre Dumas consists of a fiery quotation from one of his tragedies.
The drawing by the famous German artist Karlbach illustrates Andersen’s story of “The Frogs and the Cranes.”
Thorvaldsen, from whom there are some charming drawings, one of which, an excellent example, is here reproduced, urges his “dear Andersen,” in a letter of October 17th, 1840, to cheer up and not to leave Denmark. From Heinrich Heine there are several letters and verses, amongst them a motto written at Leipsic in 1846:
Alter Mährchen neuer Sinn,
Neuer Mährchen alter Wahrheit.
Victor Hugo’s entry, a quotation from one of his own poems, is a marvel of illegibility and might be set as a puzzle. It deciphers as follows:–
Heureux qui peut aimer!–on qui, dans la nuit noire,
Tout en cherchant la foi, peut rencontrer l’amour.
Il a du moins la lampe en attendant le jour.
Heureux en coeur! Aimer, c’est le moitie de croire.
Many famous composers have contributed music, amongst them being Schumann, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, and others.
Schumann’s music, which is here reproduced, is a setting of a song from the second part of Goethe’s “Faust,” of which the English version is:
“All that is transient is but a smile.”
Mendelssohn has written in German upon the piece of music shown in the accompanying facsimile: “To the Poet Andersen, with veneration and esteem.”
Meyerbeer contributes a setting of the song the words of which signify in English: “When I rise from the slumber whose name is Death,” followed by his signature with the inscription: “To Herr Andersen, in friendly remembrance.”
There are innumerable portraits with autographs, many views of places dear to Andersen, many quaint relics, and touching signs of admiration and affection from almost every part of Europe. An amusing document is a Bulletin de Sante for Andersen, issued at Constantinople, 3 Avi, 1841, forming a strange sequel to the passport armed with which he set out in the world some twenty-two years previously, and of which we reproduce a facsimile.
Verily, for Andersen life became a beautiful fairy tale.