1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Almqvist, Karl Jonas Ludwig

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ALMQVIST, KARL JONAS LUDWIG (1793-1866), Swedish writer, was born at Stockholm in 1793. He became a student at Upsala, where his father was professor of theology, in 1808, and took his degree in 1815. He began life under highly favourable auspices; but becoming tired of a university career, in 1823 he threw up the position he held in the capital to lead a colony of friends to the wilds of Wermland. This ideal Scandinavian life soon proved a failure; Almqvist found the pen easier to wield than the plough, and in 1828 he returned to Stockholm as a teacher in the new Elementary School there, of which he became rector in 1829. Now began his literary life; and after bringing out several educational works, he made himself suddenly famous by the publication of his great series of novels, called The Book of the Thorn-Rose (1832-1835). The career so begun developed with extraordinary rapidity; few writers have equalled Almqvist in productiveness and versatility; lyrical, epic and dramatic poems; romances; lectures; philosophical, aesthetical, moral, political and educational treatises; works of religious education, studies in lexicography and history, in mathematics and philology, form the most prominent of his countless contributions to modern Swedish literature. So excellent was his style, that in this respect he has been considered the first of Swedish writers. His life was as varied as his work. Unsettled, unstable in all his doings, he passed from one lucrative post to another, at last subsisting entirely on the proceeds of literary and journalistic labour. More and more vehemently he espoused the cause of socialism in his brilliant novels and pamphlets; friends were beginning to leave him, foes beginning to triumph, when suddenly all minor criticism was silenced by the astounding news that Almqvist, convicted of forgery and charged with murder, had fled from Sweden. This occurred in 1851. For many years no more was heard of him; but it is now known that he went over to America and settled in St Louis. During a journey through Texas he was robbed of all his manuscripts, among which are believed to have been several unprinted novels. He is said to have appealed in person to President Lincoln, but the robbers could not be traced. The American adventures of Almqvist remain exceedingly obscure, and some of the most remarkable have been proved to be fabulous. In 1865 he returned to Europe, and his strange and sinister existence came to a close at Bremen on the 26th of September 1866. It is by his romances, undoubtedly the best in Swedish, that his literary fame will mainly be supported; but his singular history will always point him out as a remarkable figure even when his works are no longer read. He was another Eugene Aram, but of greater genius, and so far more successful that he escaped the judicial penalty of his crimes. (E. G.)