Contemporary Danish Andersen Criticism
- how the reviewers received Andersen and his works
Most authors dread reviewers' comments on their recent publications, and Andersen was no exception. In the following poem from Hans Andersen's first collection Digte (Poems, 1830) (read the review in Danish) Andersen satirically parries their criticism:
The evening sun now land and sea with rosy hues may colour,
But ugh! monotony sets in at once, as does my choler.
Original the sun is not, whatever else it may be;
It rises in the east a lot, sets in the west, excuse me!
Then do appear the stars of night, but, devil and damnation!
They shine, indeed, but cold as ice, no warmth or colouration.
Dexterously a nightingale sings, sweeter than the linnet,
But without method is it all, nothing but Nature's in it.
Besides, the bird's a beardless youth, some training one should bring it
And if the song is any good, why not by daylight sing it?
At last the moon is seen to rise, its beams are fine, when present,
I would that it were ever round, and not so evanescent.
The waves do swell, but much too much, they need some moderation;
A touch of genius has the scene, but lacks my approbation.
(Modern Danish version edited by Johan de Mylius: Samlede digte (Collected poems), Copenhagen 2000, p. 54. Translated by Viggo Hjørnager Pedersen)
Reviews and notices of Andersen's literature that appeared in his own time provide the source for contemporary reception of the poet and offer textual and cultural historical insight into his work. Important elements in the history of the reception of those parts of Hans Christian Andersen's work which do not fall under the category of review, but are interesting and important, are described in the document 'Criticism of Hans Christian Andersen'.
On the website of the Hans Christian Andersen Center we have collected a number of remarkable reviews made accessible according to various criteria. The information in the tables can be sorted according to column, for instance date, or alphabetically by title.
Unfortunately, the reviews have not been translated into English. They take up approximately 150 pages, so the task of translating them is rather large.
At the moment, about 30 reviews are available.
The main emphasis of the collection is on the early tales, published from 1835 to the early 1840's. This was the period when Andersen had his literary breakthrough, but not without opposition from the critics. This was the decisive phase in the relation between Andersen and public criticism. Later reviews are rarely interesting, as reviewers were queuing up to praise the poet, who by then had established his name and proved his ability.
A number of the reviews published in 1835 refer to collections of poems and dramatic works, the two genres in which Andersen attracted most attention at the outset of his career.
Among the later reviews, those published by Meïr Aron Goldschmidt in his literary journal Nord og Syd (North and South, 1847-1859) predominate. Goldschmidt's reviews are remarkable for the painstaking reflection and energy they bear witness to. In contrast to most other critics writing after about 1845 he continued to grapple doggedly with Andersen's artistic production.
Literature: The only important treatment of the reception and criticism of the literary works of Hans Christian Andersen is Erling Nielsen: "Eventyrenes modtagelseskritik" (Reception Criticism of the Tales) in vol. 6 of Andersen's Eventyr, The Society for Danish Language and Literature / C. A. Reitzel Publishers, Copenhagen 1990).
Lars Bo Jensen is responsible for this project. In co-operation with Johan de Mylius as editor in chief he has selected reviews for web publication in 2003 (some reviews have already been published here). The magisterial treatise by Erling Nielsen, who mentions even more reviews than Birger Frank Nielsen does in his bibliography H.C. Andersen Bibliografi. Digterens danske Værker 1822-1875 (1942), has provided the main underpinning of this project.
The reviews were collected, scanned and proofread from the original sources by Solveig Ottosen, secretary at the Hans Christian Andersen centre, assisted by ex-students.
As noted above, only selected reviews are published here. We have a number of other reviews, satirical commentaries (from Corsaren, among other sources) and smaller notices in electronic format, which can be ordered from Lars Bo Jensen, or Solveig Ottosen: .
Questions, corrections and comments can be sent to the same addresses.