Hopelessly over- and under-mature for the job
This first love affair was of great significance to Andersen as a writer. The usual irony of fate would have it that he was accused of a tendency to witticism and mockery when his next book appeared; just when he had become a quite different person.Now he has got started, he can the more easily flare up. Two years later, he gave his fine Life Story to Louise Collin, the young daughter of the house that had so early opened its doors to him and kept them open.
This early autobiography has been found and published in fairly recent years. It gives a fullish account of the affair with
The Fairy Tale of My Life, the long autobiography that he published himself, it is reduced almost to nothing.
For some years Andersen was secretly infatuated with Louise, the youngest daughter of his benefactor Jonas Collin.
When he wrote the Life Story, the experience was still fresh, and he describes it for the young Louise as something very central. But there is nothing about Louise herself except that he had never noticed her as a child. The Life Story is generally regarded as a sort of extended proposal to Louise. As such, it is, if anything, even less tactical or seductive than the letter to Riborg. Yet it was definitely meant to win her, testifying to a pride usually associated with other ages and indicating that, in away , he was the courting bachelor right from the first. Helplessly over- and under-mature for the job!
Louise hardly knew what answer to give to so great an honour; and so gave no answer. It distressed Andersen, of course, who felt he had given her his whole soul and mind in this self-portrait -and yet not even an answer!
Soon after, Louise became engaged, and they became friends for life.
Sophie Ørsted, daughter of Andersen's friend, the renowned Danish physicist H. C. Ørsted.
Something like the same pattern emerges in his love for the young daughter, Sophie, of his friend H. C. Ørsted. Except that now he is even more hesitant.
" A bride- a livelihood" have become ideas that are still more inseparably identified. He writes serio-comically somewhere: "I must have 1,000 a year before I dare fall in love, and 1,500 before I dare marry; and before the semi-impossible occurs, the girl is gone, captured by another, and I am an old wizened bachelor. They are sorry prospects! "
On the evening Sophie became engaged (evidently they set aside special evenings for that in those days) he wrote in his diary:
"This Christmas I think I told her what could never be good for her! Now I shall never get married; no young girl grows for me any more, day by day I become more of an old bachelor! Oh, even yesterday I was among young people; tonight I am old! God bless you, dear beloved Sophie; you will never know how happy I could have been, affluent and with you!"
Andersen reading fairy tales to a female audience at Frijsenborg Manor in 1863.
Kilde: Det Kongelige Biblioteks web-site, www.kb.dk, 02032002
But now at any rate the rest of us know. In a writer's love stories one should never underrate the element known as "publication of intimate emotions". When he wrote to Riborg, she had the tact to return his letter (he had asked her either to destroy it or return it), but Louise was unfeeling enough to keep the one to her. Thus he could use his first letter of proposal as part of his autobiographical wooing of Louise, but the love for her had to be transformed into poetic fairy tales and novels. And we can probably thank Sophie for the little bitter-sweet tale about the butterfly that could not decide on any of the flowers until it was too late. With the years, he grew more careful about frittering his golden prose on wooing. Later, people knew they had to look after the precious letters; and he based his memoirs for a largepart on letters he "borrowed back". He used his friends like a diary!