Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

opinions, particularly Swedes. In every period of his youthful life, Heiberg was thus thrown amongst the most intelligent and liberal classes. In his own father's house assembled the literary men of the time and the French republican diplomatists in Copenhagen. In the Bakkehuus, again, he was in the very midst of all that were distinguished in literature and art; and at Count Gyllembourg's, he not only saw many foreign nobles, but also Thorwaldsen, the great sculptor, Oehlenschläger, Hans Christian Oersted, and at a later period, Baggesen.

In 1809, he had taken his examen artium; and in 1811, he made his first foreign journey with the family of the Swedish Count Taube, which, however, was only to Stockholm, where he saw a great deal of the society of the capital, and resided chiefly with a cousin of his stepfather, the Minister of Justice, Count Gyllembourg. After a sojourn of three months, he returned home, where he made a new acquaintance which had an undoubted influence on his intellectual development: namely, that of Frederiké Bruun, the celebrated German poetess, the wife of Conference Counsellor Bruun. Her house was the resort, not so much of Danish authors, as of foreigners and diplomatists, but there he again met Oehlenschläger and Baggesen, till the offensive attacks of Baggesen induced Oehlenschläger to withdraw from the places where he was sure to encounter his restless enemy.

Heiberg became almost like one of the family of the Bruuns, adopted very much their elegance of taste, and was strongly urged by them to become a diplomatist. Fortunately for literature, their endeavours to settle him in this mode of life failed ; and in 1819, he received a travelling stipend from Government, and he betook himself to Paris, where he resided three years. Here he

lived with his father, and was surrounded by a number of his countrymen, many of whom had for years resided in the same house in which his father had taken up his abode; and amongst these, Clausen, Hauch, Molbech, Hiort and Malte-Brun. Here, too, he made the acquaintance of many distinguished men, who, though avowing the most opposite principles, yet all belonged to the elder Heiberg's circle; amongst many others, Cuvier, Cousin and Beranger.

In Paris, young Heiberg stood, moreover, in danger of being drawn into a wholly different sphere of activity than that for which his poetic genius and satiric talents marked him out. He had acquired some degree of facility on the guitar, and he took it into his head to become a teacher of this instrument; but of that he speedily grew tired, and his only advantage from his musical knowledge he was destined to find in his subsequent and true career,

that of dramatic author. A second attempt, that of becoming a writer in “The Constitutionnel," was equally abortive ; and his erratic schemes in Paris were now luckily cut short by his friends at home, who had procured him the appointment of Professor of Danish Literature in the University of Kiel. He arrived in Kiel in the spring of 1822, and remained there three years; but after the free and world-embracing life of Paris, he found but little attraction in a little German provincial town, and his chief enjoyment there consisted in the society of his mother, and in literary employinents.

These employments had now been of long standing. In his early acquaintance with Hans Christian Oersted, the philosopher had induced him to study geometry, and in the course of these studies his attention was very naturally arrested by the remarkable life and labours of Tycho Brahe. These he brought into his first play, in 1812, called "Tycho Brahe's Divination," which, in an almost remodelled state, was first in 1819 produced on the stage. In the same year in which he originally wrote his Tycho Brahe, to oblige a lady, he produced for a puppet-theatre, a piece called, “Don Juan," framed from Molière's, “ Le Festin de Pierre ;” and in 1814, he also published his “ Walter the Potter," under the title of “The Marionette Theatre, by J. L. H.”.

In this piece, Heiberg took the old, favourite German subject of a man selling himself to the devil; but he introduced into it such a union of the wild and the socially comic, as gave decided proof of the nascent comic writer. He had also been zealously studying the Italian and Spanish poets, and amongst the latter, especially Calderon, and this led him into the romantic region of the drama; and he produced in 1817, “Boldly Ventured is Half-won, a play in three acts, the scene of which is laid in Spain; and “Psyche’s Initiation,” a mythologic drama, which was never wholly finished. From these studies, also, originated the article which Heiberg wrote the same year on the Spanish drama, as a thesis for his doctor's degree.

But he had already written an original comico-romantic play in two acts, called “ Christmas Fun and New Year's Merriment,” which he boldly styled a continuation of Oehlenschläger's play of “St. John's Eve.” This mixture of beautiful lyrical composition and daring satire, like the master-piece of Oehlenschläger, the tone and spirit of which it imitated, did not at once win the deserved acknowledgment—it was only the author's subsequent popularity which raised it to its proper place.

A journey which Heiberg made to Berlin in 1824, was not without great influence on his intellectual progress. He there met with Hegel, and as he had for some time been seized with a vehement desire to master his philo


sophy, he now devoted the two months which he stayed there to sound its depths. He had read Hegel's works all the way in the diligence from Hamburg; he was deep in the perusal as they rolled over the stones of the city to the inn; and during the whole time of his stay he was studying and endeavouring to get at light from the philosopher himself, and from his disciples, amongst whom he passed his time chiefly, especially with Gans, but all in vain. On his return to Hamburg, he was struggling with the same incomprehensible mysteries for six weeks, when he says, that, as he sate pondering on them in his inn, “The King of England,” suddenly the chimes of St. Peter's Church began to play, and the whole at once stood clear before him. He felt himself to understand the Hegelian philosophy to its deepest core, and was possessed of a peace, a certainty and a self-consciousness that he had never known before. The immediate result of this revelation was a warm controversy with Professor Howitz, which we leave to notice a new and important era in his life. This was the introduction of the vaudeville to the Danish stage.

In Paris he had paid attention to this species of play, French farce, and had seen it in Hamburg adapted to the German taste; he, therefore, conceived the idea of naturalizing it in Denmark, and in 1825, he produced his “ King Solomon and Yörgen the Hatter," which was received with enthusiastic applause. This was followed by a number of others, all bearing the stamp of the national character, yet widely diversified in the dramatis personce, in situations and mode of treatment. Fools ;" “ The Critic and the Beast ;” “ The Inseparables ;" “ Kjöge Huuskors;" “ The Danes in Paris ;" and “No,” constitute a cycle of vaudevilles, which, more or less, have charmed the public. In answer to that

“ April

[ocr errors]

degree of opposition which the introduction of anything new always produces, he wrote his essay “ On the Vaudeville, as a department of the drama, and on its importance in the Danish Theatre.”

In 1827 and 1828, Heiberg published a weekly esthetic, literary and critical paper, called the “Copenhagen Flying Post," in which appeared his admirable criticism on the writings of Oehlenschläger, and other similar articles, which are to be found in his collected works. In 1828, he also brought upon the stage his national drama, “The Elverhöi”--the Mount of Elves--in five acts, which was received with such extraordinary enthusiasm, that it was acted fifty times in succession, with undiminished acceptance. The following year, he produced another Spanish play, “The Princess Isabella, or Three Evenings at Court.”

In the meantime he had resigned his situation as Professor in the University of Kiel, in 1825; and in 1819 was appointed Royal Poet and Translator to the Theatre, with a salary of six hundred rix-dollars. In 1830, he was also appointed teacher of logic, esthetics and Danish literature in the newly-established Royal Military High School; and held this post till 1836, when a change of plan in the school took place. In 1839, he received the title of Professor ; and in 1832, published, as the guide to his lectures in the High School, “The Synopsis of Philosophy, or the Speculative Logic,” in which he described, according to his own views, the principles of Hegel's Logic.

Heiberg now introduced another new kind of play to the Danish stage—the Romantic, or more properly, Fairy-Comedy, of which the “Elves" was acted in 1835, and the" Fata Morgana" in 1838. Of these, the “Elves" has always been the greater favourite.

In consequence

« AnteriorContinuar »