Happy Birthday Hans!

Hans Christian Andersen was born April 2, 1805 in the town of Odense, Denmark.  While we know him by his full name, in his life he went by H. C. Andersen throughout the Scandinavian nations where his work was first published.

Andersen sold his first volume of work, The Ghost at Palnatoke’s Grave, in 1822 at the age of 17.  By that time he had already tried his hand at weaving, singing, dancing, acting, and tailor’s assistant.  In writing, he found his niche and his stories are known all around the world and will be for years to come.

The earliest installment of Andersen’s immortal Fairy Tales was published in Copenhagen in 1835. Other parts appeared in 1836 and 1837. The value of these stories was not at first perceived, and they sold slowly. He was more successful with a novel, and a volume of sketches. While he continued to write on a variety of genres, his fame for his Fairy Tales had been steadily rising; a second series began in 1838, a third in 1845. By 1840, Andersen was celebrated throughout Europe.

Hans Christian Andersen and His Father

Andersen said that his life was like a beautiful fairy tale, and he was undoubtedly as happy a man as has lived. His success was so great and so precisely adapted to his desires and temperament, that he tasted it all the way down, as his world-wide diocese of young folks would have said.

His father was a kind and tender soul, who had such a strong poetic susceptibilities himself that he filled his boy’s mind and life with gentle fancies; and preferred to tell him fairy tales, and take him, when he could, to the theater, a delight to which his slender purse was seldom equal rather than to insist upon tasks and studies.

The child is Father of the man, and in this instance the man, also, in the same sense, was father of the child. The father was a shoemaker, and his son says that he was not happy in his trade as the son certainly would not have been. The glimpse that we get of the intercourse and relation of the parent and child is very pleasing, and is just what the poet would have thought the proper relation. And since Heaven sends such children as it will, and not such as parents might choose, it is easy to imagine the intense delight of the elder Anderson in finding that his own secret dreams and shy fancies were shared by the younger, and that when he had done stitching, and stretching and hammering in the shop, he could stroll boundlessly in fairy-land with his child.

How strangely the picture of the boy Andersen and his father contrasts with that of John Stuart Mill and his father! All that either had was left out of the childhood of the other; and the impression of Andersen’s whole life is as sunny, and smiling, and happy as that of Mill is sober, and almost sad. –

Editor’s Easy Chair, in Harper’s Magazine for October.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: December 23, 1875
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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