The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Norway, Language and Literature of
NORWAY, Language and Literature of. The Norræna mâl, or northern language, now represented, with slight inflectional and orthographical variations, by the Icelandic, was the common language of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden from an unknown period to the 11th century. (See Iceland, Language and Literature of.) Norway retained the old tongue longer than either of the other kingdoms. The few mediæval Norwegian documents do not exhibit any important grammatical changes until about the time of the annexation of Norway to Denmark toward the close of the 14th century. But from this period a rapid transformation took place, and soon after the beginning of the 16th century the written language and the speech of the higher classes became identical with those of Denmark. Outside of the large towns and among the peasants, however, the Danish has never been the spoken tongue, but the old Norræna has been corrupted into a number of dialects, diverging more or less in their structure from their ancient original. From these dialects some philologists have attempted to construct a national tongue, and the efforts of several poets and story writers have made the movement partially successful. But still the Danish, with only dialectic differences, is the language of society, of the press, and of the pulpit, and is taught in the schools. The Norwegian dialects may be classified in three divisions, corresponding to the natural divisions of the country: the Nordenfjeld group, comprising those spoken in Drontheim and the extreme northern provinces; the Vestenfjeld group, or those spoken west of the mountains in Bergen and the western portion of Christiansand; and the Söndenfjeld group, including those spoken in southern Norway, or to the east of the mountains. Of these divisions, the second approaches the nearest to the Icelandic, while the last named, lying nearer to Christiania, has been most influenced by the Danish. All of them possess some peculiarities in common, which distinguish them from the written speech. The old diphthongs, au, ei, øy, are retained; the hard consonants k, t, and p are placed after as well as before vowels; a distinction is made between the terminations in a (ar) and those in e (er); although the genitive form of the nouns is generally lost, the old dative is often retained; the distinction between the masculine and feminine genders of substantives, nearly or quite lost in Danish and Swedish, is still marked; and the definite article (Icel. hinn, hin, hit) requires the substantive which follows it to take the definite termination also, as is still the case in Swedish but not in Danish.—Norway cannot be said to have had a distinct literature until after her union with Sweden. Before that date the writings of her poets, historians, and naturalists properly form a part of Danish literature. With the foundation of the university of Christiania in 1811, and the establishment of political independence in 1814, the records of Norwegian literature begin. For 10 or 20 years after the union it consisted chiefly of political essays, legal tracts, treatises on agriculture and manufactures, and text books for popular instruction. Among the noted publicists and economical writers are K. M. Falsen (died in 1830), Sverstrup (died in 1850), Ræder, Mariboe, Petersen, Blom, and F. Monrad. Keyser and Munch critically edited the ancient Norwegian codes of law; Schweigaard wrote commentaries upon jurisprudence; M. C. S. Aubert and Ræder treated of the principle of jury trial. Other juridical writers are P. C. Lassen, Smidt, Bull, Brandt, and L. K. Daa (born in 1809). Besides the Statistiske Tabeller annually issued by the government, J. E. Kraft published a topographical and statistical description of the kingdom (6 vols, 1820-'35); Tvethe issued his Norges Statistik in 1848; O. J. Broch's Statistisk Ordbog was published annually 1867-'72; A. N. Kjær, chief of the official statistical bureau, has produced many valuable works, among them the Statistisk Haandbog (1871); and in the department of social statistics the treatises of Eilert Sundt are well known. In physics, the discoveries of Christopher Hansteen (1784-1873), which were made known in 1819, mark the commencement of a new period in the study of the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism. In the Gæa Norvegica, of B. M. Keilhau (1797-1858), and in the account of his journey to Finmark and Spitzbergen, large additions were made to geological science. Theodor Kjerulf (1825-'73) succeeded Keilhau in the professorship of geology at the national university. The explorations of Jens Esmark (1763-1839) among the Norwegian mountains resulted in some well founded theories on glaciers; and J. C. Horbye has treated (1857) the erosion of mountains. The leading botanists have been Christen Smith (1785-1816), whose travels in the Congo region of Africa were first published by the British government; Sommerfeldt, who, besides a treatise on the cryptogamous plants of Norway, issued in 1826 a large supplement to Wahlenberg's “Laplandic Flora;” Blytt, the first part of whose Norsk Flora appeared in 1847; and Schübeler (born in 1815), author of Die Pflanzenwelt Norwegens. In zoölogy, the splendid work of Michael Sars (1805-'69), a Norwegian Fauna Litoralis, is widely known; and the son of the author, G. O. Sars, sustains in this branch his father's high reputation. The mathematical writings of N. H. Abel (1802-'29) have been translated into French; other authors of distinction in the same branch are B. Holmboe, O. J. Broch, and M. S. Lie. In 1848 Danielson and Boeck published, in Danish at Christiania and in French at Paris, the important results of their investigations into Spedalskhed or elephantiasis, which is prevalent in Norway and Iceland; and their work has been followed by another essay by Bidenkap. Boeck was the first to advocate inoculation in syphilitic diseases. F. Holst (born in 1791) greatly contributed by his treatises on the subject to the improvement of the Norwegian hospitals and prisons. Skjelderup published several volumes of interest to the medical student. The schism produced by the labors and writings of Hauge (1771-1824), and the freedom of religious worship secured by the constitution, have produced theological writers of ability. Among them are W. A. Wexels, S. J. Stenersen (1789-1835), C. P. Caspari (born at Dessau in 1814, but for many years attached to the university of Christiania), and somewhat later Tönder, Nissen, G. Johnson, and F. W. Bugge. In metaphysics the only authors of note are M. J. Monrad, C. Heiberg, and G. V. Lyng. The history, philology, and antiquities of Norway have been zealously studied. Jacob Aall (1773-1844) translated the voluminous chronicles of Snorri Sturlason, besides leaving an interesting record of his own times in his Erindringer or memoirs; A. Faye published a history of Norway in 1831; Rudolph Keyser followed up his account of the religion of the ancient Northmen (translated by Pennock, New York, 1854) with a more extensive work on the history of the Norwegian church during the Catholic period; and C. C. A. Lange and C. R. Unger have edited a Diplomatarium Norvegicum. But the most important national historical work is Det norske Folks Historie, by Peder Andreas Munch (1810-'63), in nine volumes. Later historical writers are O. Rygh, J. E. Sars, S. Petersen, and Gustav Storm, whose essay on Snorri Sturlason (1873) is a work of abil- ity. In 1847, by the publication of Munch's edition of the elder Edda, and a grammar and chrestomathy of the old language, was founded the Norwegian school of philology. The works of P. A. Munch, C. R. Unger (born in 1817), and R. Keyser (1803-'65), the leaders in this philological movement, comprise, among many others, a treatise on the oldest form of runic writing, a Gothic and an Old Swedish grammar, and editions of Fagr-skinna (1847), Alexandurs Saga (1848), Saga Olafs hins Helga (1849), Strengleikur (1850), Aslak Bolts Jordbog (1852), Stjørn (1853), Saga Olafs Tryggvasonar (1853, Saga Didriks af Bern (1853), Karlamagnus Saga (1859), Morkinskinna (1866), the “Saga of Thomas à Becket” (1868), the Mariu Saga (1869), and the Codex Frisianus (1870). With the assistance of the government there has been completed (1860-'65) an accurate reprint of the Flateyjarbok (Codex Flateyensis), containing sagas of the Norwegian kings, and much historical and legendary lore concerning Iceland and the whole European north. The youngest member of this school, Sophus Bugge (born in 1833), has edited several sagas and the best critical edition of the elder Edda. Ivar Andreas Aasen (born in 1813) published Det norske Folkesprogs Grammatik (1848) and an Ordbog (1850). C. A. Holmboe (born in 1796) has made an important contribution to comparative philology by his “Comparative Lexicon of several of the Indo-European Tongues” (Vienna, 1852), and by other works. The dialects of the Laplanders have been laboriously studied by the missionary Stockfleth (born in 1787), and by I. A. Friis, whose Lappisk Sproglære was issued in 1852, and has been followed by other works. In classical philology the chief laborer is L. C. M. Aubert. The poems and dramas of H. A. Bjerregaard (died in 1842) are national in spirit, but lack originality and brilliancy. Henrik Arnold Wergeland (1808-'45) was for a long time the favorite poet of the Norwegians, and a complete collection of his works in nine volumes has been published. J. S. Welhaven (1807-'73), the eminent rival of Wergeland, wrote numerous lyrics, national dramas, and æsthetical essays, collected in eight volumes (1868). Andreas Munch (born in 1810), a cousin of the historian, by his poetical and dramatic productions has rendered himself one of the most popular of the living poets. His Digte (1848), Nye Digte (1850), Reisebilleder (1851), Sorg og Trøst (1852), Digte og Fortællinger (1855), and Reiseminder (1865) are his chief works. M. C. Hansen (1794-1842) produced a multitude of poems and romances, besides several works on other subjects. P. C. Asbjörnsen and J. Moe, in their Folkeventyr and Huldreeventyr (4th ed., 1871), have collected the popular tales which have been orally preserved by the Norwegian peasants for many generations; and M. B. Landstad and Sophus Bugge have each edited collections of the old popular ballads. Among the more recent poets, the best known are J. Moe, Kjerulf, Schiwe, Bentsen, Schwach, and Sivertson, and the dramatic writers C. P. Riis and R. Olsen. The most distinguished living writer is Björnstjerne Björnson (born in 1832), many of whose tales, such as Arne and Synnøve Solbakken, illustrative of Norwegian peasant life, have been translated into several languages; his other works are the dramas Mellemslagene, Halte Hulda, Kong Sverre (1860), Sigurd Slembe (1862), Sigurd Jorsalafare (1873), and the epic poem Arnljot Gelline (1870). Henrik Ibsen (born in 1828), who has for many years resided in Dresden, has also achieved great success in the dramatic field by his Kjærlighedens Komedie (1862), Kongs-Emnerne (1864), Brand (1867), Hertog Skule, and Keiser og Galilæer (1874); he has likewise written a long poem, Peer Gynt, and a volume of lyrics (1871). Of the writers in the Folkesprog or popular dialect the most noted, besides Aasen, are O. Vinje (died 1870), a poet who united great force with a strong satirical humor; Kristofer Janson, long engaged in efforts for the education of the peasant classes, whose most notable works are Jon Arason (1867), and Sigmund Brestesson (1872), a poem founded on the Færeyinga Saga; and Kristofer Bruun. Sympathetic with the same school is Jonas Lie, whose recent novels Den Fremsynte, Tremasteren, and Lodsen og hans Hustru (1874), tales of the coast fisherman's life, have given their author a wide popularity. Two female writers of fiction, Mrs. Camilla Collett, the sister of Wergeland, and Mrs. Magdalene Thoresen, have published works of merit. The royal Norse academy of sciences, the seat of which is at Drontheim, the university of Christiania, the Norwegian antiquarian society (Oldskriftselskab), and the Selskab for Folkeopløsningens Fremme have each published transactions and series of works distinguished by zeal and learning. The best sources of information concerning Norwegian literature are the Norsk Forfatter-Lexikon (1863), a dictionary of authors, by J. E. Kraft, and La Norvége littéraire (1868), by P. Botten-Hansen.