Skip Navigation Links
Main page
Skip Navigation Links
HistoryExpand History
Skip Navigation Links
ThemesExpand Themes
TourismExpand Tourism
EducationExpand Education

Skip Navigation Links
Picture categoryExpand Picture category
Skip Navigation Links
Time lineExpand Time line

The Literary Scandinavism


By the end of the 18th century the mutual cultural interest and exchange were increased, and in the age of Romanticism the common Nordic traits in language and literature were rediscovered. The cultivation of the Nordic past and mythology lead to a new literary departure and the forming of joint periodicals and societies.
In the course of the 18th century there was an increased cultural interest and exchange between Denmark and Sweden, e.g. was Linné´s scientific works very much admired also in Denmark, the comedies of Ludvig Holberg was discovered in Sweden and from the other half of the 18th century the songs of Bellmann were cultivated in Copenhagen too.

Litterary Incidence
The Danish liberty of the press at the end of the 18th century gave opportunities for a political and cultural exchange, but when censorship was intensified in Denmark it brought with it a tightened control of liberally oriented writers. One of them was Peter Andreas Heiberg, who was exiled because of his writings. To begin with he went to Sweden, where he served his military service. Malthe Conrad Bruun, who went into Swedish exile from 1796-99, followed him. Heiberg as well as Bruun were according to the standards of the time radical writers, who criticized the absolute monarchy and the official middle classes.
The wife of P.A. Heiberg stayed in Copenhagen, where she started a relationship with an exiled Swede, Carl Frederik Gyllembourg-Ehrensvärd. He was implicated in the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III in 1792. He fled to Denmark and lost his titles and powers in Sweden. Thomasine Heiberg was granted divorce from her husband, P.A. Heiberg because of his exile and she married Ehrensvärd under the name of Gyllembourg. Thomasine Gyllembourg became the most famous woman writer in the first half of the 19th century in Denmark and she was the mother of the most well known arbiter of taste of the time, Johan Ludvig Heiberg.

The Scandinavian Literature Society
As early as 1796 “The Scandinavian Literature Society” was formed. The society published a periodical called “Scandinavian Museum”. At the time Denmark led the way in these unification ideas, which of course had a setback in connection with the Napoleonic War and after the separation of Norway from Denmark. The literary scholar Christian Molbech was a key figure in the cultural exchange, which for his part built on his repeated travels in Sweden, although he was suspected, in connection with the Napoleonic Wars, to be a spy and was prohibited to visit the Stockholm area.
Christian Molbech
Christian Molbech

New Trends
It didn’t take more than a few decades before these efforts were taken up again, this time helped by the romantic and liberal currents in Europe. The new class, the middle class, whether Danish or Swedish, wanted modern political conditions and was not tied down by the absolute monarchies´ traditional conflict of interests.
The time of romanticism and the romantic invention of the concepts people and nation influenced all of Europe and many felt that people with a common culture, language and tradition should unite. This nationalism had created unification efforts in Europe in for example Germany and Italy. This is why these joint concerns became interesting even in Scandinavia, for there were many things that united Denmark and Sweden and could overshadow the old animosity. Now greatness was in the past. Thus it was not strange that there was a movement towards the old days and an absorption in the old, glorious Nordic history.

The common Nordic
In Denmark the writers Grundtvig and Ingemann took the initiative to relive the Nordic mythology, the literature and the history of former times. The Danish linguist Rasmus Rask established scientifically the close connection between the Nordic languages. In 1812 Rask arrived in Stockholm with the literary professor Rasmus Nyerup. They were well received by their Swedish kindred spirits, but the authorities harassed them. At this time Denmark was engaged in a privateer war against Sweden’s ally, England, and Nyerup was suspected of having visited Sweden in 1810 for political reasons.
The mutual distrust was still great, but Nyerup still stood as an important cultural link until his death in 1829 and he inspired Erik Gustaf Geijer as well as Esaias Tegnér from Sweden, who wrote about the great Nordic history. The literary circles kept the Nordic memories alive in this cooled down period until 1830, where Scandinavism flourished again.

The Importance of Rasmus Rask
In 1816 Rasmus Rask returned to Sweden, at first in Kalmar and on November 12th in Stockholm, where he arrives after some trouble with his visa. He stayed there for some time. Rask had spent the years 1813-15 studying in Iceland and here he founded comparative linguistics. He spent his time in Stockholm studying Swedish, Russian and Persian; he translated his own Icelandic grammar, which included a translation of major parts of the Old Norse literature into Swedish and it was published along with the Anglo-Saxon grammar, which he was not able to get published in Copenhagen.
Rasmus Rask played an important part in increasing the interest in the common Nordic cultural heritage. In Copenhagen he had felt that he had to fight for recognition, but Stockholm received him with open arms. At one point a rumour spread that Rask wanted to stay in Sweden and that caused a commotion in Copenhagen: Scandinavian sense of community is one thing, another is the patriotism, which also was part of the time.

Oresund – the center
The dream of the old great North and nationalistic unification efforts were specifically united in the time after 1830 in the movement called “the Scandinavism”. Its centre of gravity was to become the Sound region, and here efforts were made to bridge over the Sound. Scania had after all been part of Denmark’s cultural centre before the Swedes took over, so it was natural that a rapprochement with Denmark was positively viewed in this landscape.
Regular steamship communications between Scania and Denmark began with the service Malmo-Copenhagen in 1828. Thus the Sound again had begun to work as a communication link – and not as a “blue wall” – between Sweden and Denmark. The new technique and the new ideas went hand in hand and were also able to motivate each others´ existence.

The Kings of Poems in Lund
June 23. 1829 there was a conferring of degrees in Lund´s cathedral. Adam Oehlenschläger had arrived with the newly established steamboat route from Copenhagen and the bishop of Vaxsjö, Esaias Tegnér had arrived to see his son Kristofer get his degree. The Nordic poet kings paid homage to each other and Tegnér read his new poem:
“The time of division is over (and should never have existed in the free, infinite world of the spirit) and kindred sounds, which ring across the Sound, enthral us now and especially yours. Therefore Svea offers you a garland, here I speak for it, take this from a brotherly hand and carry it to commemorate the day!”
This incident is usually called the birth of Scandinavism and none of the bards could know the political significance it would have.
Tegnér and Oehlenschläger
Tegnér and Oehlenschläger

The Strengthening of Scandinavism
The connection between the Swedish and Danish men of letters was strengthened considerably the following years, where P. Atterbom was in close contact with the Danish romantic poets Carsten Hauch and Ingemann, who went to Sweden in 1833. Chiefly it was a spiritual movement towards a Nordic unification, romantically inspired, but not liberal political in its orientation. The Jutlandic poet S.S. Blicher, who visited Sweden in 1836 also had this relatively non-political basis, although be became a main force in the attempt to give Scandinavism more popular roots by connecting it to his Jutlandic meetings on the Himmelbjerg in the 1840´s. Thus in 1843 many Swedes attended and Blicher spoke to them in their native language.

Festivity for the People
The events also took a more popular-political turn with the establishment of the so-called Constitution Day meetings in Egebæksvang forest south of Elsinore. Originally May 28th celebrated the dawning democratisation of the Danish society of the estates of the realm, at first in 1841 with 5-6000 participants. The following year not only local participants attended but also visitors from Sweden and Copenhagen, the latter arrived with the ferry “Hamlet”. The event grew to become a significant manifestation of Scandinavism and the wish for a liberal constitution, which came a few years later in 1849.
The high point for these Constitution Day celebrations was the year 1845, where S.S. Blicher, Orla Lehman, Carl Ploug and the later Danish minister D.G. Monrad spoke. The Swedish editor and author Oscar Stuzenbecker, who advocated Scandinavism eagerly, extensively covered the celebration in 1845.

H. C. Andersen and Scandinavisme
H.C. Andersen was perhaps the Danish writer, who attached himself closest to Scandinavianism and Sweden. During the first Sweden journey Andersen spent a month in Sweden, where he sailed the Gøta Channel and visited Stockholm. On his way he became acquainted with Scandinavianism, the Scandinavian sense of community. That same year he wrote the poem ”Jeg er skandinav ” (I am a Scandinavian) for the poetic calendar Hertha.

Scanian Journeys
In the year 1839 H.C. Andersen visited baron C.G. Wrangel on the manor Hyby in Scania on June 22nd. Midsummer June 23rd was celebrated on the estate Häckeberga and in the following days Andersen visited three more manors and Lund before he returned from Malmo to Copenhagen. In 1840 Andersen visted Scania again. First another visit to Hyby, after that he was honoured with a banquet and that same night he is celebrated with a serenade by the students in Lund on the town hall. The newspaper Malmø Nya Allehanda, wrote :
”Når Europa, inden lang tid er gået, erkender Andersens storhed som digter, glem da ej at Lunds studenter var de første som offentligt bragte ham den hyldest, han fortjener”.

An Emotional Writer
The event in Lund made a deep impression on Andersen. He wrote about in Mit Livs Eventyr:
"Efterretningen alene overraskede mig i den grad at jeg skjelvede over alle Lemmer. Jeg kom ganske i Feber-Tilstand, da jeg saae den tætte Skare, Alle med deres blaa Møtser paa Hovedet, Arm i Arm at nærme sig Huset; ja, jeg havde en YdmyghedsFølelse, en saa levende Erkjendelse af mine Mangler, at jeg ligesom følte mig trykket til Jorden, idet man hævede mig; da de Alle blottede deres Hoveder, idet jeg traadte frem, havde jeg min hele Kraft nødig for ikke at briste i Graad" ("Mit Livs Eventyr" 1855)."
I sin takketale til studenterne siger Andersen, ifølge hans egen erindring:
"De vise mig en Ære jeg slet ikke fortjener; jeg skal imidlertid stræbe i et kommende arbejde at udtale den Kjærlighed jeg føler til Sverrig. Gid jeg engang maa kunne levere et arbejde, hvorved jeg nogenlunde kan afbetale den Gjæld, jeg er kommen i paa en aandelig Maade!”

1840 was not a good year for H.C. Andersen in Denmark. He was badly reviewed for his exotic plays Mulatten and Maurerpigen. However, Mulatten, which was performed at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen February 3rd 1840, was a hit and was successful in April in Sweden, where it was performed in the Royal Theatre in Stockholm and by a travelling troupe in the smaller towns and in Malmo in Danish.
Recognition in his homeland however was scarce and in the arbiter of taste Johan Ludvig Heiberg´s play "En Sjæl efter Døden", which was published in the end of 1840, Andersen´s success in Lund was commented upon thus:

"Alt længe skinner hans Berømmelses Maane
over hele det store Kongerige Skaane."

©  Øresundstid 2009