Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.-No. 190:- 1 JANUARY, 1848.

.

From Blackwood's Magazine. vey ;" and he has, perhaps, shown a sovereign WORKS OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN. contempt for “the bungling translator," at the

very time when that discreet workman had most If our readers have perchance stumbled upon a displayed his skill and judgment. The idea has novel called “ The Improvisatore" by one Hans sometimes occurred to us—Suppose one of these Christian Andersen, a Dane by birth, they have foreign books were suddenly proved to be of genprobably regarded it in the light merely of a for- uine home production—suppose the German, or eign importation to assist in supplying the enormous the Dane, or the Frenchman, were discovered to annual consumption of our circulating libraries, be a fictitious personage, and all the genius, or all which devour books as fast as our mills do raw the rant, to have really emanated from the English cotton ;-with some difference, perhaps, in the re- gentleman, or lady, who had merely professed to sult, for the material can rarely be said to be translate-presto! how the book would instantly worked up into anything like substantial raiment change colors! What a reverse of judgment for body or mind, but seems to disappear altogether would there be ! What secret misgivings would in the process.

As the demand, here, exceeds all now be detected and proclaimed ! What sudden ordinary means of supply, they may have been glad outpourings of epithets by no means complimento see that our trade with the north is likely to be tary! How the boldness of many a metaphor beneficial to us, in this our intellectual need. Its would be transformed into sheer impudence! How books may not be so durable as its timber, nor so the profundities would clear up, leaving only darksubstantial as its oxen, but then they are articles ness behind! They were 80 mysterious and of faster growth, and of easier transportation. To now, throw all the light of heaven upon them, and free trade in these productions of the literary soil, there is nothing there but a blunder or a blot. not the most jealous protectionist will object; and If our readers, we say, have fallen upon this, they have, perhaps, been amused to observe how and other novels of Andersen, they have probably the mere circumstance of a foreign origin has given passed them by as things belonging to the literary a cheap repute, and the essential charm of novelty, season : they have been struck with some passages to materials which in themselves were neither good of vivid description, with touches of genuine feelnor rare. The popular prejudice deals very differ- ing, with traits of character which, though imperently with foreign oxen and foreign books ; for, fectly delineated, bore the impress of truth ; but whereas an Englishman has great difficulty in be- they have pronounced them, on the whole, to be lieving that good beef can possibly be produced unfashioned things, but half made up, constructed from any pastures but his own, and the outlandish with no skill, informed by no clear spirit of thought, beast is always looked upon with more or less sus- and betraying a most undisciplined taste. Such, picion, he has, on the contrary, a highly liberal at least, was the impression their first perusal left prejudice in favor of the book from foreign parts ; upon our mind. Notwithstanding the glimpses and nonsense of many kinds, and the most tasteless of natural feeling and of truthful portraiture which extravagancies, are allowed to pass unchallenged caught our eye, they were so evidently deficient and unreproved, by the aid of a German, or French, in some of the higher qualities which ought to dio or Danish title-page.

tinguish a writer, and so defaced by abortive atNay, the eye is sometimes tasked to discover tempts at fine writing, that they hardly appeared extraordinary beauty, where there is nothing but ex- deserving of a very critical examination, or a very traordinary blemish. Where the shrewd translator careful study. But now there bas lately come had veiled some absurdity or rashness of his au- into our hands the autobiography of Hans Christian thor, the more profound reader has been known Andersen, “ The True Story of my Life," and this to detect a meaning and a charm, which “the has revealed to us so curious an instance of intelEnglish language had failed adequately to con- lectual cultivation, or rather of genius exerting.

itself without any cultivation at all, and has re* The Improvisatore; OF, Life in Italy: from the Dan- flected back so strong a light, so vivid and so exish of Hans Christian Andersen. Translated by Mary Howill.

planatory, on all his works, that what we formerly Only a Fiddler ! and O. T.: or, Life in Denmark, by read with a very mitigated admiration, wich more the Author of The Improvisatore. Translated by Mary of censure than of praise, has been invested with Howilt.

A True Story of My Life, by Hans Christian Ander- quite a novel and peculiar interest. Moreover, sen. Translated by Mary Howitt. Tales from Denmark. Translated by Charles Bonar. certain tales for children have also fallen into our

We A Picture-book without Pictures. Translated by Meta hands, some of which are admirable. Taylor.

prophesy them an immortalty in the nurseryThe Shoes of Fortune, and other Tales. A Poet's Bazaar. Translated by Charles Beckwith, which is not the worst immortality a man can win Esq.

-and doubt not but that they have already been 1

1

0g.

LIVING AGE.

VOL. XVI.

read by children, or told to children, in every lan- | an illustration, but a hint also to other perplexed guage of Europe. Altogether Andersen, his char- mammas, who may find themselves in the like preacter and his works, have thus appeared to us a dicament. She had argued, and of course in vain, subject worthy of some attention.

against his high-flown admiration of the village We insist upon coupling them together. We belle. She was a goddess ! She would become must be allowed to abate somewhat of the austerity a throne! Apparently acquiescing in his matriof criticism by a reference to the life of the author. monial project, she now professed her willingness We cannot implicitly follow the unconditioned ad- to receive his bride-elect. Accordingly, she sent miration of Mrs. Howitt for “the beautiful thoughts her own milliner-mantua maker-what you will of Andersen," which she tells us in her preface --to array her in the complete toilette of a lady to the Autobiography, “it is the most delightful of fashion. The blushing damsel appeared in the of her literary labors to translate.” We must be most elegant attire, and took her place in the excused if we think that the mixture of praise and maternal drawing-room, amongst the sisters of the of puff, which the lady lavishes so indiscriminately enraptured lover. Alas! enraptured no more! upon the author whose works she translates, is The rustic beauty, where could it have flown? more likely to display her own skill and dexterity The belle of the village was transformed into a in author-craft, than permanently to enhance the very awkward young lady. Goddess !—She was fame of Andersen. In the works which Mrs. a simpleton. Become a throne !-She could not Howitt has translated, (with the exception of the sit upon a chair. The charm was broken. The Autobiography,) there is a great proportion of most application we need hardly make. There may be unquestionable trash, which, we should imagine, it certain uncultivated men of genius on whom it is must be a great affliction to render into English. possible to practise a like malicious kindness.

It is curious, and perhaps necessary, to watch We would rather preface our notice of the life this new relationship which has sprung up in the and works of Andersen, by a motto taken from world of letters, between the original author and our own countryman Blake, artist and poet, and a his translator. A reciprocity of services is always man of somewhat kindred nature :-* amiable, and one is glad to see society enriched by

“ Piping down the valleys wild, another bond of mutual amity. The translator

Piping songs of pleasant glee, finds a profitable commodity in the genius of his On a cloud I saw child, author ; the author, a stanch champion in his for

And he laughing said to meeign ally, who, notwithstanding his community of • Pipe a song about a lamb;' interest, can still praise without blushing. Many So I piped with merry cheer. good results doubtless arise from this alliance, but • Piper, pipe that song again ! an increased chance of impartial criticism is not

So I piped-he wept to hear. likely to be one of them.

• Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe, When Andersen writes for children or of child

Sing thy songs of happy cheerhood, he is singularly felicitous-fanciful, tender, So I sang the same again, and true to nature. This alone were sufficient to

While he wept with joy to hear. separate him from the crowd of common writers. • Piper, sit thee down and write, For the rest of his works, if you will look at them

In a book that all may read.' kindly, and with a friendly scrutiny, you will find

Then he vanished from my sight; many a natural sentiment vividly reflected. But

And I plucked a hollow reed, traces of the higher operations of the intellect, of And I made a rural pen, deep or subtle thought, of analytic power, of rati

And I stained the water clear, ocination of any kind, there is absolutely none.

And I wrote my happy songs, If, therefore, his injudicious admirers should insist,

Every child may joy to hear.” without any reference to his origin or culture, on Such was the form under which the muse may extolling his writings as works submitted, without be said to have visited and inspired Andersen. apology or excuse, to the mature judgment and He ought to have been exclusively the poet of formed taste-they can only peril the reputation children and of childhood. He ought never to they seek to magnify. They will expose to ridi- have seen, or dreamed, of an Apollo six feet high, cule and contempt one who, if you allow him a looking sublime, and sending forth dreadful arrows place apart by himself, becomes a subject of kindly from the far-resounding bow; he should have and curious regard. If they insist upon his intro- looked only to that “ child upon the cloud," or duction, unprotected by the peculiar circumstances rather, he should have seen his little muse as she which environ him—we do not say amongst the walks upon the earth-we have her in Gainsborliterary magnates of his time, but even in the ough's picture—with her tattered petticoat, and broad host of highly cultivated minds, we lose her bare feet, and her broken pitcher, but looking sight of him, or we follow him with something withal with such a sweet, sad contentedness upon very much like a smile of derision.

the world, that surely, one thinks, she must have We remember being told of a dexterous strata- filled that pitcher and drawn the water which she gem, by which a lady cured her son of what she carries—without, however, knowing anything of deemed an unworthy passion for a rustic beauty.

* See Allan Cunningham's Lives of the Painters and We tell the story—for it may not only afford us Sculptors, vol. ii., p. 150.

the matter--from the very well where Truth lies “ • Bang! bang !' was heard at this moment, hidden.

and several wild ducks lay dead amongst the reeds, We should like to quote at once, before pro

and the water was as red as blood. There was a ceeding further, one of Andersen's tales for chil-great shooting excursion. The sportsmen lay all

round the moor; and the blue smoke floated like a dren. We will venture upon an extract. It will cloud through the dark trees, and sank down to the at all events be new to our readers, and will be very water; and the dogs splattered about the more likely to interest them in the history of its marsh-splash! splash! reeds and rushes were author than any quotation we could make from his waving on all sides : it was a terrible fright for the more ambitious works. Besides, the story we poor duck. select will somewhat foreshadow the real history

“ At last all was quiet; but the poor little thing

did not yet dare to lift up its head; it waited many which follows.

hours before it looked round, and then hastened A highly respectable matronly duck introduces away from the moor as quickly as possible. It ran into the poultry-yard a brood which she has just over the fields and meadows, and there was such a hatched. She has had a deal of trouble with one wind that it could hardly get along. egg, much larger than the rest, and which after “ Towards evening, the duck reached a little all produced a very “ugly duck,” who gives the hut. Here dwelt an old woman with her tom-cat name, and is the hero of the story.

and her hen; and the cat could put up its back and

purr, and the hen could lay eggs, and the old “So, we are to have this tribe, too!' said the woman loved them both as her very children. For other ducks, as if there were not enough of us certain reasons of her own, she let the duck in to already! And only look how ugly one is! we live with them. won't suffer that one here.' And immediately a “ Now the tom-cat was master in the house, and duck flew at it, and bit it in the neck.

the hen was mistress; and they always said, We “ • Let it alone,' said the mother; it does no and the world.' That the duck should have any one any harm.'

opinion of its own, they never would allow. “• Yes, but it is so large and strange-looking, “Can you lay eggs?' asked the hen. and therefore it must be teased.'

16. No!' 66. These are fine children that the mother has !' • • Well, then, hold your tongue.' said an old duck, who belonged to the noblesse, "Can you put up your back and purr !' said the and wore a red rag round its leg. · All handsome, tom-cat. except one; it has not turned out well. I wish

46. No.' she could change it.'

Well, then, you ought to have no opinion of “That can't be done, your grace,' said the your own; where sensible people are speaking.' mother ; ' besides, if it is not exactly pretty, it is a " And the duck sat in the corner, and was very sweet child, and swims as well as the others, even sad; when suddenly it took it into its head to think a little better. I think in growing it will improve. of the fresh air and the sunshine ; and it had such It was long in the egg, and that 's the reason it is a an inordinate longing to swim on the water, that it little awkward.'

could not help telling the hen of it. " . The others are nice little things,' said the old • • What next, I wonder!' said the hen, you duck: ‘now make yourself quite at home here.' have nothing to do, and so you sit brooding over

"And so they did. But the poor young duck such fancies. Lay eggs, or purr, and you ’ll forget that had come last out of the shell, and looked so them.' ugly, was bitten, and pecked, and teased by ducks “• But it is so delightful to swim on the water!' and fowls. “It's so large!' said they all; and the said the duck—so delightful when it dashes over turkey-cock, that had spurs on when he came into one's head, and one dives down to the very bottom.' the world, and therefore fancied himself an emperor, “Well, that must be a fine pleasure !' said the strutted about like a ship under full sail, went hen. You are crazy, I think. Ask the cat, who straight up to it, gobbled, and got quite red. The is the cleverest man I know, if he would like to poor little duck hardly knew where to go, or where swim on the water, or perhaps to dive, to say nothio stand, it was so sorrowful because it was so ing of myself. Ask our mistress, the old lady, and ugly, and the ridicule of the whole poultry-yard. there is no one in the world cleverer than she is ;

“ Thus passed the first day, and afterwards it do you think that she would much like to swim on grew worse and worse. The

poor duck was hunted the water, and for the water to dash over her about by every one ; its brothers and sisters were head ?' cross to it, and always said, “I wish the cat would 66. You don't understand me,' said the duck. get you, you frightful creature!' and even its «• Understand, indeed! If we don't understand mother said, ' Would you were far from here !' And you, who should? I suppose you won't pretend to the ducks bit it, and the hens pecked at it, and the be cleverer than the tom-cat, or our mistress, to say girl that fed the poultry kicked it with her foot. nothing of myself? Don't behave in that way, So it ran and flew over the hedge.

child; but be thankful for all the kindness that has " On it ran.

At last it came to a great moor been shown you. Have you not got into a warm where wild ducks lived ; here it lay the whole room, and have you not the society of persons from night, and was so tired and melancholy. In the whom something is to be learnt ? But you are a morning up flew the wild ducks, and saw their new blockhead, and it is tiresome to have to do with comrade; · Who are you?' asked they; and our you. You may believe what I say; I am well dislittle duck turned on every side, and howed as well posed towards you; I tell you what is disagreeaas it could. • But you are tremendously ugly!' ble, and it is by that one recognizes one's true said the wild ducks. However, that is of no con- friends.' sequence to us, if you don't marry into our family.' “I think I shall go into the wide world,' said The poor thing! It certainly never thought of the duckling. marrying; it only wanted permission to lie among “ • Well then, go!' answered the hen. the reeds, and to drink the water of the marsh. “And so the duck went. It swam on the water,

[ocr errors]

came

it dived down ; but was disregarded by every ani- It is not only in writing for children that our mal on account of its ugliness.

author succeeds ; but whenever childhood crosses “ One evening—the sun was setting most mag- his path, it calls up a true pathos, and the playful nificently--there came a whole flock of large, beautiful birds out of the bushes ; never had the duck tenderness of his nature. The commencement of seen anything so beautiful. They were of a bril- his serious novels, where he treats of the infancy liant white, with long slender necks: they were and boyhood of his heroes, is always interesting. swans. They uttered a strange note, spread their Amongst the translated works of Andersen is one superb long wings, and flew away from the cold entitled “A Picture-Book without Pictures." countries (for the winter was setting in) to warmer The author describes himself as inhabiting a solilands and unfrozen lakes. They mounted so bigh, so very high! The little ugly duck felt indescriba: tary garret in a large town, where no one knew bly, it turned round in the water like a mill-wheel, him, and no friendly face greeted him. One evenstretched out its neck towards them, and uttered a ing, however, he stands at the open casement, and cry so loud and strange that it was afraid even of suddenly beholds “the face of an old friend—a itself. Oh, the beautiful birds! the happy birds ! round, kind face, looking down on him. It was it could not forget them; and when it could see the moon—the dear old moon! with the same them no longer, it dived down to the very bottom unaltered gleam, just as she appeared when, of the water; and when it came up again it was

through the branches of the willows, she used to quite beside itself.

“ And now it became so cold! But it would be shine upon him as he sat on the mossy bank beside too sad to relate all the suffering and misery which the river.” The moon becomes very sociable, and the duckling had to endure through the hard win- breaks that long silence which poets have so often ter. It lay on the moor in the rushes. But when celebrated-breaks it, we must confess, to very the sun began to shine again more warmly, when little purpose. “ Sketch what I relate to you," the larks sang, and the lovely spring was come,

says
the moon, you

will have a pretty picthen, all at once, it spread out its wings, and rose ture-book.” And accordingly, every visit, she in the air. They made a rushing noise louder than formerly, and bore it onwards more vigorously; and tells him “ of one thing or another that she has before it was well aware of it, it found itself in a seen during the past night.” One would think garden, where the apple-trees were in blossom, and that such a sketch-book, or album, as we have where the syringas sent forth their fragrance, and here, might easily have been put together without their long green branches hung down in the clear calling in the aid of so sublime a personage. But stream. "Just then three beautiful white swans amongst the pictures that are presented to us, two out of the thicket. They rustled their

or three, where the moon has had her eye upon feathers, and swam on the water so lightly-oh! so very lightly! The duckling knew the superb children in their sports or their distresses, took creatures, and was seized with a strange feeling of hold of our fancy. Here Andersen is immediately sadness.

at home. We give one short extract. "* To them will I fly!' said it, to the royal

“ It was but yesternight (said the moon) that I birds. Though they kill me, I must fly to them!' And it flew into the water, and swam to the mag- there was a hen with eleven chickens. A pretty

peeped into a small court-yard, enclosed by houses : nificent birds, that looked at, and with rustling little girl was skipping about. The hen chicked, plumes, sailed towards it.

and, affrighted, spread out her wings over her little 6. Kill me!' said the poor creature, and bowed

Then came the maiden's father, and chid down its head to the water, and awaited death. But the child ; and I passed on, without thinking more what did it see in the water? It saw beneath it its of it at the moment. own likeness ; but no longer that of an awkward

“This evening—but a few minutes ago, I again grayish bird, ugly and displeasing—it was the figo peeped into the same yard. All was silent ; but ure of a swap.

soon the little maiden came. She crept cautiously “ It is of no consequence being born in a farm to the hen-house, lifted the latch, and stole gently yard, if only it is in a swan's egg.

up to the hen and the chickens. The hen chicked “ The large swans swam beside it, and stroked aloud, and they all ran futtering abont: the little it with their bills. There were little children run

girl ran after them. I saw it plainly, for I peeped ning about in the garden ; they threw bread into in through a chink in the wall. I was vexed with the water, and the youngest cried out, • There is a the naughty child, and was glad that the father new one!' And the other children shouted too!

came and scolded her still more than yesterday, and Yes, a new one is come!'—and they clapped their seized her by the arm. She bent her head back; hands and danced, and ran to tell their father and big tears stood in her blue eyes. She wept. 'I mother. And they threw bread and cake into the wanted to go in and kiss the hen, and beg her to water; and every one said, : The new one is the forgive me for yesterday. But I could not tell it best ! so young, and so beautiful!'

Then the young one felt quite ashamed, and you.' And the father kissed the brow of the innohid its head under its wing; it knew not what to

cent child; and I kissed her eyes and her lips." do: it was too happy, but yet not proud—for a good

Our poet—we call him such, though we know heart is never proud. It remembered how it had nothing of his verses, for whatever there is of been persecuted and derided, and now it heard all merit in his writings is of the nature of poetrysay it was the most beautiful of birds. And the our poet of childhood and of poverty, was born at syringas bent down their branches to it in the water, Odense, a town of Funen, one of the green, beechand the sun shone so lovely and so warm. shook its plumes, the slender neck was lifted up, covered islands of Denmark. It bears the name and, from its very heart, it cried rejoicingly– Never of the Scandinavian hero, or demigod, Odin ; dreamed I of such happiness when I was the little Tradition says he lived there. The parents of ugly duck!'"

Andersen were so poor that when they married

ones.

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »