Hans Christian Anderson
Hans Christian Anderson
Biography Courtesy of the Danish
followed by Links to the Stories
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
1805 Hans Christian Andersen is born 2 April in Odense. The exact place of birth is unknown. His father was a poor shoemaker and his mother went out washing. The family only acquired a permanent address in
1812 First visit to the theatre in Odense, where the boy's imaginative gifts begin to find their direction.
1816 The father dies from an illness contracted during the years
1812-14, when he enlisted as a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars. The mother remarries
1819 A few months after his confirmation, Hans goes alone to Copenhagen to seek his fortune in the Royal Theatre. For the following three years, living in extreme poverty, he tries to be taken on by the theatre as a singer, dancer or actor. Influential people take an interest in him and ensure a modicum of tuition for him, as his schooling has been extremely neglected.
1822 As a last, desperate act, Hans submits a couple of plays to the theatre. They are rejected, but the directors seek to rid themselves of him in a kind way by sending him to school in Slagelse. The Director of the Royal Theatre, the financier Jonas Collin becomes his guardian.
1826 When Simon Meisling, the headmaster of the Slagelse school moves to Helsingør Grammar School,
Hans goes with him. Here, he writes his famous poem "The Dying Child" against the background of his extremely complex relationship with Meisling.
1827 Collin takes Hans's complaints seriously and removes him from Meisling's school.
Hans is now given private tuition to prepare him for his grammar school leaving examination. This same year,
Hans has several poems published in the leading literary periodical, Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post. "The Dying Child" appears in both Danish and German.
1828 Takes his grammar school leaving examination at Copenhagen University, where he matriculates. The following year he passes the Philologicum etphilosophicum examination, allowing him to continue studies at the university.
1829 Has his first proper publication with Journey on Foot, a prose work in the style of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Also his first play, Love in Nicholas' Tower. Both enjoy considerable success.
1831 The first notable collection of poems visits Germany, where he meets the authors Ludwig Tieck in Dresden and Adalbert von Chamisso in Berlin. On his return to Denmark he publishes his first travel account, Shadow Pictures.
1832 Text for a ballad opera and an opera libretto. Writes his first autobiography, which remains unpublished (and unknown) until
1833-34 On the basis of a travel grant he embarks on his long educational journey via Germany and France to Italy, where in the artists' colony in Rome he becomes a close friend of the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
1835 Publishes his first novel, The Improvisatore, and his first two slender volumes of Fairy Tales, Told for Children. In the following years writes several plays and two novels, O.T. and Only a Fiddler. The novels are quickly translated into German, and thereafter into Swedish and Dutch.
1837 First visit to Sweden, where Hans meets the author Fredrika Bremer. After a visit to Copenhagen, the French man of letters Xavier Marmier writes a biographical article on
Hans, appended to a French translation of the poem "The Dying Child". The article, entitled "Vie d'un poete" is published in the Revue de Paris and is of crucial significance for making
Hans known throughout Europe, as it was reprinted, translated and quoted in several countries.
1838 Søren Kierkegaard directs a frontal attack on
Hans as a novelist with his first book, From the Papers of One Yet Alive (a review of Only a Fiddler). That same year,
Hans's finances are stabilised when he is awarded the customary royal subvention for writers.
1842 The travel account A Poet's Bazaar with the famous chapters on railways and on a recital by Franz Liszt.
1843 The start of a new series of fairy tales, this time without the subtitle "told for children". Falls in love with the Swedish singer
1844 Close friendship with the Hereditary Grand Duke Carl Alexander of Sachsen-Weimar, who wants
Hans installed as a new Goethe in Weimar.
1845 Hans's novels begin to appear in English translation.
1847 Hans's collected works begin to appear in Germany, introduced by his first official autobiography, which the same year is published in English under the title of The True Story of My Life. First visit to England, where
Hans is feted everywhere and makes the acquaintance of Dickens.
1848 First fairy tales published in French.
1849 First play performed in the new popular theatre, the Casino, where in subsequent years
Hans met with great and lasting successes.
1851 The travel account In Sweden, containing his poetical creed (an alliance between poetry, religion and science). Appointed titular professor.
1852 First collection entitled Stories instead of Fairy Tales.
1853 The Danish edition of Collected Works begins to appear. The 1855 volume contains the revised edition of the autobiography, The Fairy Tale of My Life.
1857 Second visit to England, where Hans spends a month as the guest of Charles Dickens.
1858 For the first time, Hans gives a reading of fairy tales in the newly founded Workers' Association. Altogether he appears here about 20 times in succeeding years, often reading to audiences of 500-900.
1862-63 Visit to Spain. The travel account In Spain is published 1863.
1866 Visit to Portugal. The travel account A Visit to Portugal is published 1868.
1867 Given the title of etatsråd and subsequently proclaimed citizen of honour in Odense. Great celebrations in his honour in his native town.
1868 Publishes the story "The Dryad", about the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris. Makes the acquaintance of the young critic Georg Brandes, who the following year writes a major, seminal article on
Hans in Illustreret Tidende.
1871 Visit to Norway.
1872 Publishes his last fairy tales.
1874 Honoured with the title of konferensråd.
1875 After a serious illness lasting several years, Hans dies on 4 August at "Rolighed", the country home of the Jewish merchant Moritz Melchior. The Melchiors had taken care of him and looked after him in his last years.