Lack of a woman's love
Though he fell in love with several women (as discussed elsewhere in this issue) Andersen never married, and in spite of his longing for a home of his own he probably realized that he would have found it difficult to settle down to the life of a married man.
It has been suggested on more than one occasion that he was really a homosexual, and that his love for Riborg Voigt, Louise Collin, Jenny Lind, etc. was mere pretence, a kind of window-dressing to disguise the true facts about his nature at a time when homosexuality was regarded with horror and disgust by most people.
In his important psychiatric study of Andersen, Professor Hjalmar Helweg mentions an article entitled "H. C. Andersen. Beweis seiner Homosexualität" by a certain Albert Hansen in
Jahrbuch fur sexüelle Zwischenstufen (1901)
"I felt a violent sensual passion but resisted"
, and he also draws attention to the fact that in Magnus Hirschfeld's book Die Homosexualität Andersen is mentioned as one of the famous homosexuals. Helweg, however, rejects the theory; he says of Andersen:
By nature he was heterosexual, but the feeling of inferiority deeply rooted in his nature made heterosexual relationships- whether legitimate or illegitimate- impossible to him. Physically he remained an incurable masturbator, and spiritually he sought and found refuge in glowing friendships which might occasionally have an erotic character. If under favourable circumstances he had met a homosexual young man whom he liked it is not easy to say what this might have led to. Maybe he would then in practice have become a homosexual, but it is safe to assume that Andersen would not have found any repose in such a relationship. Whether he would have found it if in time he had been married to a kind and good woman seems uncertain as well- but at least there were periods during which he suffered acutely from the lack of a home and a woman's love.
Hjalmar Helweg brings in another argument which seems to me to carry much weight; it relates to Edvard Collin, a man who knew Andersen better than anyone else and had known him since they were both quite young. Professor Helweg writes: Edvard Collin was an intelligent man, who knew Andersen thoroughly. If there had been even the slightest suspicion that Andersen was homosexual it is quite unthinkable that Collin -especially at a time when homosexuality was generally regarded as a despicable vice and only as a despicable vice -would have allowed his young son to travel round Europe as Andersen's sole companion. Andersen lived so close to the Collins that they could not have escaped being suspicious if he had really been homosexual and followed his nature in practice. And such a suspicion did not exist.
There is plenty of evidence in Andersen's diaries (now being published in their entirety for the first time) that he was physically attracted to the opposite sex; but equally, the candid character of his diaries makes it almost certain that he never had a sexual relationship with another person, male or female.
The following extracts from Andersen's diaries in Naples in 1834 may be quoted as an example:
19 FEBRUARY At dusk I was surrounded by pimps who wanted to recommend bella donna; I can feel that the climate is having an effect on my blood, I felt a violent sensual passion but resisted.
21 FEBRUARY I was not left in peace to see Vesuvius by pimps, a boy of ten or twelve followed me through the whole length of the street telling me about a donna molta bella excellenta; it made me very sensual and passionate, but I resisted the temptation all the same. If I get home without having lost my innocence I shall never lose it.
23 FEBRUARY Tremendous feeling of sensual desire and internal battle. If it is a sin to satisfy this mighty desire, then let me fight it; I am still innocent, but my blood is burning, in my dreams everything inside me is boiling. I think the South is demanding its due! I'm half ill. -Happy he who is married, who is engaged to be married! Oh! if only I )vas tied with strong ties. But I want to, I do want to fight against this weakness.
J. Th. Lundbye.
26 FEBRUARY (after having been offered a girl of thirteen who "had only this month given herself over to the flesh") God! Lead me towards that which is best and most sensible. I do not regard this satisfaction as a sin, but I find it abhorrent and dangerous with such persons, and an unforgivable sin against an innocent being.
28 FEBRUARY I'm sure experienced people will laugh at my innocence, but it isn't really innocence, it is an abhorrence of this thing for which I have such a dislike.