HCA NEWS The Museums of Odense City have purchased Hans Christian Andersen Letter

The Museums of Odense City have put up DKK 18,500 for the penultimate letter from Hans Christian Andersen's hand.

By H.C. Andersen 2005 - 09 October 2002

The Museums of Odense City have purchased one of Hans Christian Andersen's letters dated 21 July 1875.  As far as we know, it is the penultimate letter Hans Christian Andersen was able to write from his sick bed, before he died on 4 August.

The letter is addressed to Hans Christian Andersen's close friend, Jonna Stampe, who had known him her entire life. She was the oldest grandchild of Hans Christian Andersen's great benefactor, Jonas Collin, and, as she grew up, she bonded strongly with her famous friend. 

In the summer of 1875, as Hans Christian Andersen lay on his death bed at the home of his friends, the Melchior family of the Østerbro quarter of Copenhagen, he had to give up writing himself at the end of June and content himself with dictation.  Hence, this letter to Jonna Stampe from 21 July was dictated to his hostess, Mrs. Melchior.  With difficulty, Hans Christian Andersen was only just able to add his signature.

Great interest in the purchase
In spite of the relative brevity of the letter and that Hans Christian Andersen only put his signature to it, interest in purchasing the letter was great:  the letter was valued at DKK 15,000 and the Museums of Odense City paid DKK 18,500 plus fees before the purchase was secured.  The museum was particularly interested because of Hans Christian Andersen's long acquaintance with Jonna Stampe and because the museum some time ago bought all the surviving letters from Jonna Stampe to Hans Christian Andersen. 

Their exchange now makes up approximately 160 letters and has thus become one of the most important collections of Hans Christian Andersen's correspondence.  The Museums of Odense City very much hopes to be able to publish this exchange of letters in the coming years. 

The relationship between Jonna Stampe and Hans Christian Andersen became especially intense in 1843, when, as a 16-year old, she fell in love with the four years older Baron Henrik Stampe from Nysø near Præstø - his mother was strongly against the relationship and Hans Christian Andersen became the couple's confidential supporter. 

Jonna and Henrik were married in 1850 and Hans Christian Andersen visited them several times at their home in Præstø and produced, among other things, three large picture books for the young family's three eldest daughters together with Jonna's father Adolph Drewsen. 

In 1998, the Museums of Odense City acquired the most distinguished of the three, the so-called Astrid Stampe Picture Book, which will be published by the Museums of Odense City in cooperation with Gyldendal Publishers.

The letter is characteristic of Hans Christian Andersen, who along with references to many acquaintances also finds the time for deep, personal thoughts:

Dear Jonna!

Much have I suffered and still do somewhat.  You do not write to me.  The 22d of August is your birthday.  The day after that is your mother's.  God bless and keep you both!

Much during my suffering has become wonderfully clear to me, especially the harmony between the infinitely small and the infinitely large. Send my greetings to dear Elise Stampe, Jonna's sister-in-law, as well as her old father and all yours. 

But where in the world is the blessed, faithful Ida Koch?  I have heard absolutely nothing about her for a long time.  .

Be well

Your faithful old friend

H.C. Andersen