A Fairy Tale
The Gay Love Letters of Hans Christian Andersen
Excerpts from My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries (1998), Edited by Rictor Norton
The life of the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) resembles that of his most famous fairy tale, "The Story of the Little Mermaid." In letters written to his beloved young friend Edvard Collin in 1835–6 Andersen said "Our friendshp is like 'The Mysteries', it should not be analyzed," and "I long for you as though you were a beautiful Calabrian girl." In the fairy tale, written when Collin decided to get married, Andersen displays himself as the sexual outsider who lost his prince to another. Andersen's biographer, Elias Bredsdorff, in 1993 used diaries to argue that Andersen never had sexual intercourse but was a compulsive masturbator; Bredsdorff is uneasy with the notion of "homosexual emotions" and therefore declines to label his subject gay. Kinsey, according to his associate W. B. Pomeroy, suspected Andersen was gay, and was shown by a scholar in Copenhagen an immense pile of data and paper on Andersen: "seeing the original manuscripts which the scholar possessed, Kinsey could say unequivocally that they were straight-out homosexual stories"; like the mute Little Mermaid, "Andersen could not tell the world of his own homosexual love for the people of the world, but the original manuscripts showed his feelings clearly." The following letters cover Andersen's later "homosexual emotional" relationship with the Hereditary Grand-Duke of Weimar, whom he met at the theatre in Weimar, and spent three weeks with him at Ettersburg in 1844. He then made a European tour, and in Rome, Paris, and London, was received with great approbation by the press, the public, and other great men of letters and the nobility. But even after an intervening war and eight years of separation, he still treasured the bright memory of his fairy-tale summer in Ettersburg. Andersen spent his annual summer holidays with the Duke from 1854 through 1857, and they continued to correspond until Andersen's death.
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN TO THE GRAND DUKE OF WEIMAR
My Noble Hereditary Grand-Duke,
I am home again in the old street, in the old house. The same people are passing to and fro, the carts are rolling along, everything is going on in the old track; I myself am making the usual visits, attending the theatre, and sitting alone once more in my own room, as if nothing had happened; and yet my head and heart are so full. It is with me as after a great ball, the music still sounding in my ears, my thoughts like dashing waves. I can find no rest. I have been at home now for eight days already, and yet have done nothing at all, not even written letters this is the first one and now I hope with this inauguration of the pen, that, from today forth, a great deal will be written, and the new novel will burst into bloom. . . .
How thoughtful of you to write me. I received the letter somewhat late, but, if it had not come at all, I should have known that I was not forgotten.
Trollhatte in Sweden
From the extreme north, on the boundary of Lapland, I have just reached here. I left Denmark in the spring, where I was useless in the struggle for victory, and have travelled through Sweden, have been up at Dalkarlien where no thunder of cannon resounds. Happy, politically-defined Sweden, with its secure boundaries! Three years ago I dreamt of undertaking the journey to Stockholm with you, but what a change has now come over everything! I travelled alone, but you were in my thoughts yes, I may say daily in my thoughts with melancholy and sadness. Oh, you scarcely know how highly I rate you, how firmly you have grown into my heart! I have only rightly understood that this summer. I have received no answer to my last letter which I wrote to you in the spring. I afterwards heard that a contingent of Weimar troops had marched to the north, and finally I read that your Royal Highness had yourself gone to the seat of war. I undertood the circumstances, and sorrowed deeply on account of them, but could write no more. But now the proclamations of peace are ringing in my years, I may follow the wishes of my heart and send this letter to my friend. In the far north of Sweden I received the news so late, and am only now listening to the sound of the joy-bells. I can see you again, and look into your honest, affectionate eyes. . . .
SOURCE: Hans Christian Andersen's Correspondence, ed. Frederick Crawford (London: Dean & Son, 1891).