Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Jens Emmanuel Baggesen

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BAGGESEN, Jens Emmanuel, the most prominent literary figure in Denmark during the latter part of last century, was born on the 15th of February 1765, at Korsb r. His parents were very poor, and before he was twelve ha was sent to copy documents at the office of the clerk of the district. By dint of indomitable perseverance, he managed to gain an education, and in 1782 entered the university of Copenhagen. His success as a writer was coeval with his earliest publi cation ; his Comical Tales in verse, poems that recall the Broad Grins that Colman the younger brought out a decade later, took the town by storm, and the struggling young poet found himself a popular favourito at twenty-one. He then tried serious lyrical writing, and his tact, elegance of manner, and versatility, gained him a place in the best society. This sudden success received a blow in 1788, when a very poor opera he had produced was received with mockery, and a reaction against him set in. He left Denmark in a rage, and spent the next years in Germany, France, and Switzerland. In the country last mentioned he married, began to write in German, and pub lished in that language his next poem, Alpenlied. In 1790 he returned to his mother-country, bringing with him as a peace-offering his fine descriptive poem, the Labyrinth, in Danish, and was received with unbounded homage. The next twenty years were spent in incessant restless wan derings over the north of Europe, Paris latterly becoming his nominal home. He continued to publish volumes alter nately in Danish and German. In 1811 he returned to Copenhagen to find the young Ohlenschlager installed as the great poet of the day, and he himself beginning to lose his previously unbounded popularity. Until 1820 he re sided in Copenhagen, in almost unceasing literary feud with some one or other, abusing and being abused, the most important feature of the whole being Baggesen s de termination not to allow Ohlenschlager to be considered a greater poet than himself. He then went back to his beloved Paris, where he lost his wife and youngest child, and fell at last into a state of hopeless melancholy madness. In 1826, having slightly recovered, he wished to see Den mark once more, but died at Hamburg on his way, on tho 3d of October, and was buried at Kiel. His many-sided talents achieved success in all forms of writing, but his domestic, philosophical, and critical works have long ceased to occupy attention. A little more power of restrain ing his egotism and passion would have made him ono of the wittiest and keenest of modern satirists, and his comic poems are deathless. The Danish literature owes Baggesen a great debt for the firmness, polish, and form which he introduced into it his style being always finished and elegant. With all his faults lie stands as the greatest figure between Holberg and Ohlenschliiger. Of all his poems, however, the loveliest and best is a little simple song, called There was a time when, I was very little, which every Dane, high or low, knows by heart, and which is matchless in its simplicity and pathos. It has outlived all his epics.