Hans Christian Andersen sometimes joked with his friend Henriette Hanck a.o. (from Odense, see the vast correspondence published in the yearbook Anderseniana 1941-46) that he could not marry till he earned 1,500 rigsdaler a year. Throughout the 1830's he really had considerable financial difficulties and had to write a lot - also a lot which he later regretted having published - just to scrape a bare living and at the same time he was financially dependent on assistance from his patron, Jonas Collin. Only when in 1838 he received a public grant from the king's private foundation, Fonden Ad usus publicos, starting with 400 rigsdaler a year, did things look up. And from about 1840 he in fact earned enough to be able to marry - if that was what he wanted.
The son of Edvard Collins, Jonas Collin, who was what corresponds to Director of the National Bank, carefully administered Andersen's money. And from the late 1840's his fortune grew steadily, so that at his death he owned what in our money would correspond to at least DKK 3 millions (about 450,000 USD). In addition to that, Reitzel Publishers at his death paid his estate about DKK 2 millions (about 300,000 USD) for rights.
In this connection one must remember that Andersen in fact, if he had lived differently, might have been much more affluent at his death. His many and long journeys abroad (during some of those he made in the last decade of his life he paid all expenses to have the company of young male members of the Collin family, by which he believed that he paid back an old debt to the family) cost him considerable sums. His daily life, where he never cooked himself, but had food and wine served either at a boarding house, hotel or in a restaurant (apart from when he was the guest of other people) was also costly.
If he had consistently received money from abroad for the many translations of his works, he would have been enormously rich. But as we know this was before the time of the Berne Convention, and it was only on special occasions that he received money from abroad through direct contracts with publishers abroad (such as Lorck in Leipzig and Horace Scudder in the USA).
On the other hand, the Royal Theatre was a source of a steady income to him as to a number of other Danish writers. To this must be added that over the years he had a considerable production for the theatre (also for the popular theatre, the Casino) and was not particularly worried if a play flopped.
The unit of currency at Andersen's time was: 1 rigs(bank)daler (abbreviated as rdl.) = 6 mark = 16 skilling.
The value of the rigsdaler must be multiplied by at least 100 to get an idea of the value in today's Danish money.
The introduction of a common Nordic unit of currency took place in 1873, when 1 rigsdaler was fixed at 2 kroner (about 0.25 USD).Back
© 2002 Johan de Mylius, The Hans Christian Andersen Center