On this day…
2nd April, 1805 – Hans Christian Andersen born.
Hans Christian Andersen often referred to in Scandinavia as H. C. Andersen; 2 April 1805 – 4 August 1875) was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen’s popularity is not limited to children; his stories, called eventyr in Danish, or “fairy-tales” in English, express themes that transcend age and nationality.
Andersen’s fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. Some of his most famous fairy tales include “The Little Mermaid”, “The Snow Queen”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Nightingale”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and many more. His stories have inspired plays, ballets, and both live-action and animated films.
Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickenson were acquaintances.
In June 1847, Andersen paid his first visit to England and enjoyed a triumphal social success during the summer. The Countess of Blessington invited him to her parties where intellectual people could meet, and it was at one party that he met Charles Dickens for the first time. They shook hands and walked to the veranda which was of much joy to Andersen. He wrote in his diary, “We had come to the veranda, I was so happy to see and speak to England’s now living writer, whom I love the most.”
The two authors respected each other’s work and had something important in common as writers: Depictions of the poor and the underclass, who often had difficult lives affected both by the Industrial Revolution and by abject poverty. In the Victorian era there was a growing sympathy for children and an idealization of the innocence of childhood.
Ten years later, Andersen visited England again, primarily to visit Dickens. He extended a brief visit to Dickens’ home at Gads Hill Place into a five-week stay, to the distress of Dickens’ family. After Andersen was told to leave, Dickens stopped all correspondence between them, to the great disappointment and confusion of Andersen, who had quite enjoyed the visit and never understood why his letters went unanswered.