The True Story of My Life
By Hans Christian Andersen

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Chapter II.

On Monday morning, September 5th, 1819, I saw from the heights of Frederiksburg, Copenhagen, for the first time. At this place I alighted from the carriage, and with my little bundle in my hand, entered the city through the castle garden, the long alley and the suburb.

The evening before my arrival had been made memorable by the breaking out of the so-called Jews quarrel, which spread through many European countries. The whole city was in commotion [Footnote: This remarkable disturbance makes a fine incident in Anderson’s romance of “Only a Fiddler."–M. H.]; every body was in the streets; the noise and tumult of Copenhagen far exceeded, therefore, any idea which my imagination had formed of this, at that time, to me great city.

With scarcely ten dollars in my pocket, I turned into a small public- house. My first ramble was to the theatre. I went round it many times; I looked up to its walls, and regarded them almost as a home. One of the bill-sellers, who wandered about here each day, observed me, and asked me if I would have a bill. I was so wholly ignorant of the world, that I thought the man wished to give me one; I therefore accepted his offer with thankfulness. He fancied I was making fun of him and was angry; so that I was frightened, and hastened from the place which was to me the dearest in the city. Little did I then imagine that ten years afterwards my first dramatic piece would be represented there, and that in this manner I should make my appearance before the Danish public. On the following day I dressed myself in my confirmation suit, nor were the boots forgotten, although, this time, they were worn, naturally, under my trousers; and thus, in my best attire, with a hat on, which fell half over my eyes, I hastened to present my letter of introduction to the dancer, Madame Schall. Before I rung at the bell, I fell on my knees before the door and prayed God that I here might find help and support. A maid-servant came down the steps with her basket in her hand; she smiled kindly at me, gave me a skilling (Danish), and tripped on. Astonished, I looked at her and the money. I had on my confirmation suit, and thought I must look very smart. How then could she think that I wanted to beg? I called after her.

“Keep it, keep it!” said she to me, in return, and was gone.

At length I was admitted to the dancer; she looked at me in great amazement, and then heard what I had to say. She had not the slightest knowledge of him from whom the letter came, and my whole appearance and behavior seemed very strange to her. I confessed to her my heartfelt inclination for the theatre; and upon her asking me what characters I thought I could represent, I replied, Cinderella. This piece had been performed in Odense by the royal company, and the principal characters had so greatly taken my fancy, that I could play the part perfectly from memory. In the mean time I asked her permission to take off my boots, otherwise I was not light enough for this character; and then taking up my broad hat for a tambourine, I began to dance and sing,–

“Here below, nor rank nor riches, Are exempt from pain and woe.”

My strange gestures and my great activity caused the lady to think me out of my mind, and she lost no time in getting rid of me.

From her I went to the manager of the theatre, to ask for an engagement. He looked at me, and said that I was “too thin for the theatre.”

“Oh,” replied I, “if you will only engage me with one hundred rix dollars banco salary, then I shall soon get fat!” The manager bade me gravely go my way, adding, that they only engaged people of education.

I stood there deeply wounded. I knew no one in all Copenhagen who could give me either counsel or consolation. I thought of death as being the only thing, and the best thing for me; but even then my thoughts rose upwards to God, and with all the undoubting confidence of a child in his father, they riveted themselves upon Him. I wept bitterly, and then I said to myself, “When everything happens really miserably, then he sends help. I have always read so. People must first of all suffer a great deal before they can bring anything to accomplishment.”

I now went and bought myself a gallery-ticket for the opera of Paul and Virginia. The separation of the lovers affected me to such a degree, that I burst into violent weeping. A few women, who sat near me, consoled me by saying that it was only a play, and nothing to trouble oneself about; and then they gave me a sausage sandwich. I had the greatest confidence in everybody, and therefore I told them, with the utmost openness, that I did not really weep about Paul and Virginia, but because I regarded the theatre as my Virginia, and that if I must be separated from it, I should be just as wretched as Paul. They looked at me, and seemed not to understand my meaning. I then told them why I had come to Copenhagen, and how forlorn I was there. One of the women, therefore, gave me more, bread and butter, with fruit and cakes.

On the following morning I paid my bill, and to my infinite trouble I saw that my whole wealth consisted in one rix dollar banco. It was necessary, therefore, either that I should find some vessel to take me home, or put myself to work with some handicraftsman. I considered that the last was the wiser of the two, because, if I returned to Odense, I must there also put myself to work of a similar kind; besides which, I knew very well that the people there would laugh at me if I came back again. It was to me a matter of indifference what handicraft trade I learned,–I only should make use of it to keep life within me in Copenhagen. I bought a newspaper, therefore. I found among the advertisements that a cabinet maker was in want of an apprentice. The man received me kindly, but said that before I was bound to him he must have an attestation, and my baptismal register from Odense; and that till these came I could remove to his house, and try how the business pleased me. At six o’clock the next morning I went to the workshop: several journeymen were there, and two or three apprentices; but the master was not come. They fell into merry and idle discourse. I was as bashful as a girl, and as they soon perceived this, I was unmercifully rallied upon it. Later in the day the rude jests of the young fellows went so far, that, in remembrance of the scene at the manufactory, I took the resolute determination not to remain a single day longer in the workshop. I went down to the master, therefore, and told him that I could not stand it; he tried to console me, but in vain: I was too much affected, and hastened away.

I now went through the streets; nobody knew me; I was quite forlorn. I then bethought myself of having read in a newspaper in Odense the name of an Italian, Siboni, who was the director of the Academy of Music in Copenhagen. Everybody had praised my voice; perhaps he would assist me for its sake; if not, then that very evening I must seek out the master of some vessel who would take me home again. At the thoughts of the journey home I became still more violently excited, and in this state of suffering I hastened to Siboni’s house.

It happened that very day that he had a large party to dinner; our celebrated composer Weyse was there, the poet Baggesen, and other guests. The housekeeper opened the door to me, and to her I not only related my wish to be engaged as a singer, but also the whole history of my life. She listened to me with the greatest sympathy, and then she left me. I waited a long time, and she must have been repeating to the company the greater part of what I had said, for, in a while, the door opened, and all the guests came out and looked at me. They would have me to sing, and Siboni heard me attentively. I gave some scenes out of Holberg, and repeated a few poems; and then, all at once, the sense of my unhappy condition so overcame me that I burst into tears; the whole company applauded.

“I prophesy,” said Baggesen, “that one day something will come out of him; but do not be vain when, some day, the whole public shall applaud thee!” and then he added something about pure, true nature, and that this is too often destroyed by years and by intercourse with mankind. I did not understand it all.

Siboni promised to cultivate my voice, and that I therefore should succeed as singer at the Theatre Royal. It made me very happy; I laughed and wept; and as the housekeeper led me out and saw the excitement under which I labored, she stroked my cheeks, and said that on the following day I should go to Professor Weyse, who meant to do something for me, and upon whom I could depend.

I went to Weyse, who himself had risen from poverty; he had deeply felt and fully comprehended my unhappy situation, and had raised by a subscription seventy rix dollars banco for me. I then wrote my first letter to my mother, a letter full of rejoicing, for the good fortune of the whole world seemed poured upon me. My mother in her joy showed my letter to all her friends; many heard of it with astonishment; others laughed at it, for what was to be the end of it? In order to understand Siboni it was necessary for me to learn something of German. A woman of Copenhagen, with whom I travelled from Odense to this city, and who gladly, according to her means, would have supported me, obtained, through one of her acquaintance, a language-master, who gratuitously gave me some German lessons, and thus I learned a few phrases in that language. Siboni received me into his house, and gave me food and instruction; but half a year afterwards my voice broke, or was injured, in consequence of my being compelled to wear bad shoes through the winter, and having besides no warm under-clothing. There was no longer any prospect that I should become a fine singer. Siboni told me that candidly, and counselled me to go to Odense, and there learn a trade.

I, who in the rich colors of fancy had described to my mother the happiness which I actually felt, must now return home and become an object of derision! Agonized with this thought, I stood as if crushed to the earth. Yet, precisely amid this apparently great un-happiness lay the stepping-stones of a better fortune.

As I found myself again abandoned, and was pondering by myself upon what was best for me next to do, it occurred to me that the Poet Guldberg, a brother of the Colonel of that name in Odense, who had shown me so much kindness, lived in Copenhagen. He lived at that time near the new church-yard outside the city, of which he has so beautifully sung in his poems. I wrote to him, and related to him everything; afterwards I went to him myself, and found him surrounded with books and tobacco pipes. The strong, warm-hearted man received me kindly; and as he saw by my letter how incorrectly I wrote, he promised to give me instruction in the Danish tongue; he examined me a little in German, and thought that it would be well if he could improve me in this respect also. More than this, he made me a present of the profits of a little work which he had just then published; it became known, and I believe they exceeded one hundred rix dollars banco; the excellent Weyse and others also supported me.

It was too expensive for me to lodge at a public house; I was therefore obliged to seek for private lodgings. My ignorance of the world led me to a widow who lived in one of the most disreputable streets of Copenhagen; she was inclined to receive me into her house, and I never suspected what kind of world it was which moved around me. She was a stern, but active dame; she described to me the other people of the city in such horrible colors as made me suppose that I was in the only safe haven there. I was to pay twenty rix dollars monthly for one room, which was nothing but an empty store-room, without window and light, but I had permission to sit in her parlor. I was to make trial of it at first for two days, meantime on the following day she told me that I could decide to stay or immediately go. I, who so easily attach myself to people, already liked her, and felt myself at home with her; but more than sixteen dollars per month Weyse had told me I must not pay, and this was the sum which I had received from him and Guldberg, so that no surplus remained to me for my other expenses. This troubled me very much; when she was gone out of the room, I seated myself on the sofa, and contemplated the portrait of her deceased husband.

I was so wholly a child, that as the tears rolled down my own cheeks, I wetted the eyes of the portrait with my tears, in order that the dead man might feel how troubled I was, and influence the heart of his wife. She must have seen that nothing more was to be drained out of me, for when she returned to the room she said that she would receive me into her house for the sixteen rix dollars. I thanked God and the dead man. I found myself in the midst of the mysteries of Copenhagen, but I did not understand how to interpret them. There was in the house in which I lived a friendly young lady, who lived alone, and often wept; every evening her old father came and paid her a visit. I opened the door to him frequently; he wore a plain sort of coat, had his throat very much tied up, and his hat pulled over his eyes. He always drank his tea with her, and nobody dared to be present, because he was not fond of company: she never seemed very glad at his coming. [Footnote: This character will be recognised in Steffen Margaret, in Only a Fiddler.– M. H.] Many years afterwards, when I had reached another step on the ladder of life, when the refined world of fashionable life was opened before me, I saw one evening, in the midst of a brilliantly lighted hall, a polite old gentleman covered with orders–that was the old father in the shabby coat, he whom I had let in. He had little idea that I had opened the door to him when he played his part as guest, but I, on my side, then had also no thought but for my own comedy-playing; that is to say, I was at that time so much of a child that I played with my puppet-theatre and made my dolls’ clothes; and in order that I might obtain gaily-colored fragments for this purpose, I used to go to the shops and ask for patterns of various kinds of stuffs and ribbons. I myself did not possess a single farthing; my landlady received all the money each month in advance; only now and then, when I did any errands for her, she gave me something, and that went in the purchase of paper or for old play-books. I was now very happy, and was doubly so because Professor Guldberg had induced Lindgron, the first comic actor at the theatre, to give me instruction. He gave me several parts in Holberg to learn, such as Hendrik, and the Silly Boy, for which I had shown some talent. My desire, however, was to play the Correggio. I obtained permission to learn this piece in my own way, although Lindgron asked, with comic gravity, whether I expected to resemble the great painter? I, however, repeated to him the soliloquy in the picture gallery with so much feeling, that the old man clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Feeling you have; but you must not be an actor, though God knows what else. Speak to Guldberg about your learning Latin: that always opens the way for a student.”

I a student! That was a thought which had never come before into my head. The theatre lay nearer to me, and was dearer too; but Latin I had also always wished to learn. But before I spoke on the subject to Guldberg, I mentioned it to the lady who gave me gratuitous instruction in German; but she told me that Latin was the most expensive language in the world, and that it was not possible to gain free instruction in it. Guldberg, however, managed it so that one of his friends, out of kindness, gave me two lessons a week.

The dancer, Dahlen, whose wife at that time was one of the first artistes on the Danish boards, opened his house to me. I passed many an evening there, and the gentle, warm-hearted lady was kind to me. The husband took me with him to the dancing-school, and that was to me one step nearer to the theatre. There stood I for whole mornings, with a long staff, and stretched my legs; but notwithstanding all my good- will, it was Dahlen’s opinion that I should never get beyond a figurante. One advantage, however, I had gained; I might in an evening make my appearance behind the scenes of the theatre; nay, even sit upon the farthest bench in the box of the figurantes. It seemed to me as if I had got my foot just within the theatre, although I had never yet been upon the stage itself.

One night the little opera of the Two Little Savoyards was given; in the market scene every one, even the mechanists, might go up to help in filling the stage; I heard them say so, and rouging myself a little, I went happily up with the others. I was in my ordinary dress; the confirmation coat, which still held together, although, with regard to brushing and repairs, it looked but miserably, and the great hat which fell down over my face. I was very conscious of the ill condition of my attire, and would have been glad to have concealed it; but, through the endeavor to do so, my movements became still more angular. I did not dare to hold myself upright, because, by so doing, I exhibited all the more plainly the shortness of my waistcoat, which I had outgrown. I had the feeling very plainly that people would make themselves merry about me; yet, at this moment, I felt nothing but the happiness of stepping for the first time before the foot-lamps. My heart beat; I stepped forward; there came up one of the singers, who at that time was much thought of, but now is forgotten; he took me by the hand, and jeeringly wished me happiness on my d but. “Allow me to introduce you to the Danish public,” said he, and drew me forward to the lamps. The people would laugh at me–I felt it; the tears rolled down my cheeks; I tore myself loose, and left the stage full of anguish.

Shortly after this, Dahlen arranged a ballet of Armida, in which I received a little part: I was a spirit. In this ballet I became acquainted with the lady of Professor Heiberg, the wife of the poet, and now a highly esteemed actress on the Danish stage; she, then a little girl, had also a part in it, and our names stood printed in the bill. That was a moment in my life, when my name was printed! I fancied I could see it a nimbus of immortality. I was continually looking at the printed paper. I carried the programme of the ballet with me at night to bed, lay and read my name by candle light–in short, I was happy.

I had now been two years in Copenhagen. The sum of money which had been collected for me was expended, but I was ashamed of making known my wants and my necessities. I had removed to the house of a woman whose husband, when living, was master of a trading-vessel, and there I had only lodging and breakfast. Those were heavy, dark days for me.

The lady believed that I went out to dine with various families, whilst I only ate a little bread on one of the benches in the royal garden. Very rarely did I venture into some of the lowest eating-houses, and choose there the least expensive dish. I was, in truth, very forlorn; but I did not feel the whole weight of my condition. Every person who spoke to me kindly I took for a faithful friend. God was with me in my little room; and many a night, when I have said my evening prayer, I asked of Him, like a child, “Will things soon be better with me?” I had the notion, that as it went with me on New Year’s Day, so would it go with me through the whole year; and my highest wishes were to obtain a part in a play.

It was now New Year’s Day. The theatre was closed, and only a half- blind porter sat at the entrance to the stage, on which there was not a soul. I stole past him with beating heart, got between the movable scenes and the curtain, and advanced to the open part of the stage. Here I fell down upon my knees, but not a single verse for declamation could I recall to my memory. I then said aloud the Lord’s Prayer, and went out with the persuasion, that because I had spoken from the stage on New Year’s Day, I should in the course of the year succeed in speaking still more, as well as in having a part assigned to me.

During the two years of my residence in Copenhagen I had never been out into the open country. Once only had I been in the park, and there I had been deeply engrossed by studying the diversions of the people and their gay tumult. In the spring of the third year, I went out for the first time amid the verdure of a spring morning. It was into the garden of the Fredericksberg, the summer residence of Frederick VI. I stood still suddenly under the first large budding beech tree. The sun made the leaves transparent–there was a fragrance, a freshness–the birds sang. I was overcome by it–I shouted aloud for joy, threw my arms around the tree and kissed it.

“Is he mad?” said a man close behind me. It was one of the servants of the castle. I ran away, shocked at what I had heard, and then went thoughtfully and calmly back to the city.

My voice had, in the mean time, in part regained its richness. The singing master of the choir-school heard it, offered me a place in the school, thinking that, by singing with the choir, I should acquire greater freedom in the exercise of my powers on the stage. I thought that I could see by this means a new way opened for me. I went from the dancing-school into the singing-school, and entered the choir, now as a shepherd, and now as a warrior. The theatre was my world. I had permission to go in the pit, and thus it fared ill with my Latin. I heard many people say that there was no Latin required for singing in the choir, and that without the knowledge of this language it was possible to become a great actor. I thought there was good sense in that, and very often, either with or without reason, excused myself from my Latin evening lesson. Guldberg became aware of this, and for the first time I received a reprimand which almost crushed me to the earth. I fancy that no criminal could suffer more by hearing the sentence of death pronounced upon him. My distress of mind must have expressed itself in my countenance, for he said “Do not act any more comedy.” But it was no comedy to me.

I was now to learn Latin no longer. I felt my dependence upon the kindness of others in such a degree as I had never done before. Occasionally I had had gloomy and earnest thoughts in looking forward to my future, because I was in want of the very necessaries of life; at other times I had the perfect thoughtlessness of a child.

The widow of the celebrated Danish statesman, Christian Colbj÷rnsen, and her daughter, were the first ladies of high rank who cordially befriended the poor lad; who listened to me with sympathy, and saw me frequently. Mrs. von Colbj÷rnsen resided, during the summer, at Bakkehus, where also lived the poet Rahbek and his interesting wife. Rahbek never spoke to me; but his lively and kind-hearted wife often amused herself with me. I had at that time again begun to write a tragedy, which I read aloud to her. Immediately on hearing the first scenes, she exclaimed, “But you have actually taken whole passages out of Oehlenschl ger and Ingemann.”

“Yes, but they are so beautiful!” replied I in my simplicity, and read on.

One day, when I was going from her to Mrs. von Colbj÷rnsen, she gave me a handful of roses, and said, “Will you take them up to her? It will certainly give her pleasure to receive them from the hand of a poet." These words were said half in jest; but it was the first time that anybody had connected my name with that of poet. It went through me, body and soul, and tears filled my eyes. I know that, from this very moment, my mind was awoke to writing and poetry. Formerly it had been merely an amusement by way of variety from my puppet-theatre.

At Bakkehus lived also Professor Thiele, a young student at that time, but even then the editor of the Danish popular legends, and known to the public as the solver of Baggesen’s riddle, and as the writer of beautiful poetry. He was possessed of sentiment, true inspiration, and heart. He had calmly and attentively watched the unfolding of my mind, until we now became friends. He was one of the few who, at that time, spoke the truth of me, when other people were making themselves merry at my expense, and having only eyes for that which was ludicrous in me. People had called me, in jest, the little orator, and, as such, I was an object of curiosity. They found amusement in me, and I mistook every smile for a smile of applause. One of my later friends has told me that it probably was about this period that he saw me for the first time. It was in the drawing-room of a rich tradesman, where people were making themselves very merry with me. They desired me to repeat one of my poems, and, as I did this with great feeling, the merriment was changed into sympathy with me.

I heard it said every day, what a good thing it would be for me if I could study. People advised me to devote myself to science, but no one moved one step to enable me to do so; it was labor enough for me to keep body and soul together. It therefore occurred to me to write a tragedy, which I would offer to the Theatre Royal, and would then begin to study with the money which I should thus obtain. Whilst Guldberg instructed me in Danish, I had written a tragedy from a German story, called The Chapel in the Wood; yet as this was done merely as an exercise in the language, and, as he forbade me in the most decided manner to bring it out, I would not do so. I originated my own material, therefore; and within fourteen days I wrote my national tragedy called the Robbers in Wissenberg (the name of a little village in Funen.) There was scarcely a word in it correctly written, as I had no person to help me, because I meant it to be anonymous; there was, nevertheless, one person admitted into the secret, namely, the young lady whom I had met with in Odense, during my preparation for confirmation, the only one who at that time showed me kindness and good-will. It was through her that I was introduced to the Colbj÷rnsen family, and thus known and received in all those circles of which the one leads into the other. She paid some one to prepare a legible copy of my piece, and undertook to present it for perusal. After an interval of six weeks, I received it back, accompanied by a letter which said the people did not frequently wish to retain works which betrayed, in so great a degree, a want of elementary knowledge.

It was just at the close of the theatrical season, in May, 1823, that I received a letter from the directors, by which I was dismissed from the singing and dancing school, the letter adding also, that my participation in the school-teaching could lead to no advantage for me, but that they wished some of my many friends would enable me to receive an education, without which, talent availed nothing. I felt myself again, as it were, cast out into the wide world without help and without support. It was absolutely necessary that I should write a piece for the theatre, and that must be accepted; there was no other salvation for me. I wrote, therefore, a tragedy founded on a passage in history, and I called it Alfsol. I was delighted with the first act, and with this I immediately went to the Danish translator of Shakspeare, Admiral Wulff, now deceased, who good-naturedly heard me read it. In after years I met with the most cordial reception in his family. At that time I also introduced myself to our celebrated physician Oersted, and his house has remained to me to this day an affectionate home, to which my heart has firmly attached itself, and where I find my oldest and most unchangeable friends.

A favorite preacher, the rural dean Gutfeldt, was living at that time, and he it was who exerted himself most earnestly for my tragedy, which was now finished; and having written a letter of recommendation, he sent it to the managers of the theatre. I was suspended between hope and fear. In the course of the summer I endured bitter want, but I told it to no one, else many a one, whose sympathy I had experienced, would have helped me to the utmost of their means. A false shame prevented me from confessing what I endured. Still happiness filled my heart. I read then for the first time the works of Walter Scott. A new world was opened to me: I forgot the reality, and gave to the circulating library that which should have provided me with a dinner.

The present conference councillor, Collin, one of the most distinguished men of Denmark, who unites with the greatest ability the noblest and best heart, to whom I looked up with confidence in all things, who has been a second father to me, and in whose children I have found brothers and sisters;–this excellent man I saw now for the first time. He was at that time director of the Theatre Royal, and people universally told me that it would be the best thing for me if he would interest himself on my behalf: it was either Oersted or Gutfeldt who first mentioned me to him; and now for the first time I went to that house which was to become so dear to me. Before the ramparts of Copenhagen were extended, this house lay outside the gate, and served as a summer residence to the Spanish Ambassador; now, however, it stands, a crooked, angular frame-work building, in a respectable street; an old-fashioned wooden balcony leads to the entrance, and a great tree spreads its green branches over the court and its pointed gables. It was to become a paternal house to me. Who does not willingly linger over the description of home?

I discovered only the man of business in Collin; his conversation was grave and in few words. I went away, without expecting any sympathy from this man; and yet it was precisely Collin who in all sincerity thought for my advantage, and who worked for it silently, as he had done for others, through the whole course of his active life. But at that time I did not understand the apparent calmness with which he listened, whilst his heart bled for the afflicted, and he always labored for them with zeal and success, and knew how to help them. He touched so lightly upon my tragedy, which had been sent to him, and on account of which many people had overwhelmed me with flattering speeches, that I regarded him rather as an enemy than a protector.

In a few day I was sent for by the directors of the theatre, when Rahbek gave me back my play as useless for the stage; adding, however, that there were so many grains of corn scattered in it, that it was hoped, that perhaps, by earnest study, after going to school and the previous knowledge of all that is requisite, I might, some time, be able to write a work which should be worthy of being acted on the Danish stage.

In order therefore to obtain the means for my support and the necessary instruction, Collin recommended me to King Frederick the Sixth, who granted to me a certain sum annually for some years; and, by means of Collin also, the directors of the high schools allowed me to receive free instruction in the grammar school at Slagelse, where just then a new, and, as was said, an active rector was appointed. I was almost dumb with astonishment: never had I thought that my life would take this direction, although I had no correct idea of the path which I had now to tread. I was to go with the earliest mail to Slagelse, which lay twelve Danish miles from Copenhagen, to the place where also the poets Baggesen and Ingemann had gone to school. I was to receive money quarterly from Collin; I was to apply to him in all cases, and he it was who was to ascertain my industry and my progress.

I went to him the second time to express to him my thanks. Mildly and kindly he said to me, “Write to me without restraint about everything which you require, and tell me how it goes with you.” From this hour I struck root in his heart; no father could have been more to me than he was, and is; none could have more heartily rejoiced in my happiness, and my after reception with the public; none have shared my sorrow more kindly; and I am proud to say that one of the most excellent men which Denmark possesses feels towards me as towards his own child. His beneficence was conferred without his making me feel it painful either by word or look. That was not the case with every one to whom, in this change of my fortunes, I had to offer my thanks; I was told to think of my inconceivable happiness and my poverty; in Collin’s words was expressed the warm-heartedness of a father, and to him it was that properly I was indebted for everything.

The journey was hastily determined upon, and I had yet for myself some business to arrange. I had spoken to an acquaintance from Odense who had the management of a small printing concern, for a widow, to get “Alfsal” printed, that I might, by the sale of the work, make a little money. Before, however, the piece was printed, it was necessary that I should obtain a certain number of subscribers; but these were not obtained, and the manuscript lay in the printing-office, which, at the time I went to fetch it away, was shut up. Some years afterwards, however, it suddenly made its appearance in print without my knowledge or my desire, in its unaltered shape, but without my name.

On a beautiful autumn day I set off with the mail from Copenhagen to begin my school-life in Slagelse. A young student, who a month before had passed his first examination, and now was travelling home to Jutland to exhibit himself there as a student, and to see once more his parents and his friends, sate at my side and exulted for joy over the new life which now lay before him; he assured me that he should be the most unhappy of human beings if he were in my place, and were again beginning to go to the grammar school. But I travelled with a good heart towards the little city of Zealand. My mother received a joyful letter from me. I only wished that my father and the old grandmother yet lived, and could hear that I now went to the grammar school.


Preface  •  Chapter I.  •  Chapter II.  •  Chapter III.  •  Chapter IV.  •  Chapter V.  •  Chapter VI.  •  Chapter VII.  •  Chapter VIII.

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The True Story of My Life
By Hans Christian Andersen
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