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date: 25 April 2018

Periodical Fiction in Denmark and Norway before 1900

Summary and Keywords

Prose fiction, poetry, and essays were integral parts of the Danish and Norwegian periodical press from its early modern beginnings to the rise of the modern news media. They range from the 17th-century versified newspaper Den danske Mercurius (The Danish Mercury), to the fables, poems, essays, and stories of 18th-century newspapers and spectator journals, to Henrik Ibsen’s plays and the serial novels of the 19th century.

The print markets in Denmark and Norway were closely integrated due to the union of the two states until 1814. They remained so during Norway’s union with Sweden 1814–1905, with major publishing houses for Norwegian authors still in Copenhagen until 1925. Danish remained the basis for the primary written language in Norway for most of the 1800s, partly due to the proximity of the two languages. While there was an increased call for more Scandinavian and Swedish–Norwegian collaboration after 1814, the Swedish-Finnish print market remained largely separate from the Dano-Norwegian. While newspapers and journals were local or national publications, their fiction reflected the book market and the Dano-Norwegian literary discourse.

The periodical press served as an important arena for new writers, by offering them a large audience and allowing for experimentation with form and content. Furthermore, the periodical form and the publication context of news pieces informed how fiction was written and read.

The genre of the sketch, a traveling journalist’s highly subjective and literary report, exemplifies the blurred lines between fact and fiction. Maurits Hansen, Camilla Collett, and Knut Hamsun were among its Norwegian practitioners; Holger Drachmann and Herman Bang notable Danish ones. Simultaneously, they were all renowned novelist and poets, both inside and outside the press, with some works reflecting the crime stories and exotic tales of the paper columns. Hans Christian Andersen, by contrast, applied the traditional genre of allegory to comment on topical events in the 1850s by producing fairy tales for the press. Ibsen claimed newspapers to be his favorite reading material. While building his career, periodicals served as important publication channels both at home and abroad. They informed his later plays, increasingly concerned with events and issues of his time.

By the mid-19th century, there was a growing movement to introduce a written

Norwegian language more in line with the spoken word. Ivar Aasen (1813–1896) introduced Landsmål (New Norwegian language) in 1853, based on dialects. To prove its applicability, the journalist A. O. Vinje published poems and stories, alongside witty essayistic prose, in his weekly Dølen (The man from the valley; 1858–1870). The author Arne Garborg followed suit in the newspaper Fedraheimen (Fatherland; 1877–1883), publishing both his own fiction and essays as well as translated novels. Newspapers thus became seminal in shaping a new written language and its literature.

The press enabled a speedy introduction of foreign literature and new genres, circulating as part of an international print market. In the 18th century, the Dano-Norwegian press featured literary texts by François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Carl von Linnaeus, Saadi, Joseph Addison, and Oliver Goldsmith. The first feuilleton novel in Denmark was Eugène Sue’s The Mysteries of Paris (Les Mystères de Paris), printed from July 1842 in Dagen (The day), while the novel was still under publication in France. In Norway, the first novel came hot off the British press in 1844: Arabella Stuart in Den Norske Rigstidende (The Norwegian national newspaper). The novel by G. P. R. James was typical of the taste for gothic and mystery tales set in historic times that were to fill the feuilleton section at the bottom of the page (termed “the cellar”). Female writers are notably present from the beginning and reached a wider audience than ever before, thanks to serial literature. Often writing under pseudonyms, Scandinavian women entered positions as novelists, journalists, editors, and translators for newspapers and journals. Among the favorite translated authors were George Sand, George Eliot, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who became household names for newspaper readers. Jane Austen was tellingly introduced in Norway by way of a newspaper serial: Persuasion (called Familien Elliot) in Morgenbladet (The morning paper) 1872–1873.

Keywords: serialization, newspapers, periodicals, Norway, Denmark, journalism, translation, 18th-century literature, 19th-century literature, children’s literature, censorship

Literature and the Press

The history of Dano-Norwegian literature in the 18th and 19th centuries is a history of the press, and vice versa.1 A study of 213 Norwegian authors born between 1742 and 1888 found that 183 (86 percent) had contributed texts to the press. The numbers decreased during the period as an increased professionalization took place both within the press and in literature.2 An early work on Norwegian literary history, published by H. Olaf Hansen in 1862, mirrors the close relationship between the two sectors. It is as much a history of the press as a literary history. He describes how authors “sprung up like mushrooms” in newspapers, allowing every aspiring writer to reach an audience unedited.3 For Hansen, the term “literature” included press texts as well as aesthetic texts, the latter being hard to imagine without the public arena of the press. The close relationship was in keeping with a long, although changing, tradition.

From its onset, in the 17th century, the form and content of the Dano-Norwegian press was modeled on European publications and genres. They were in turn molded to fit local publication contexts and legislation. The first political newspapers appeared in Copenhagen in the 1640s, printing foreign news in German. After the introduction of absolute monarchy in the twin kingdom in 1660, the court initiated a newspaper written in alexandrines by the poet Anders Bording. Modeled on French and German verse papers, Den danske Mercurius (1666–1677) was the first newspaper written in Danish. In 1701, a royal decree criminalized the combination of news and opinions in papers. Publishing opinions (and literature) was left to the emerging periodicals, such as the literary review Lærde Efterretninger (Learned news; from 1720) and Den danske Spectator (The Danish spectator; 1744–1745).4

In 1759, the first paper published by a bureau d’adresse (office of intelligence) emerged in Copenhagen. This type of newspaper, imported from France via Germany, combined advertisements and notifications with letters from the readers, stories, essays, economic articles, poems, and fables. The adresseavis (“intelligencer,” paper printing the advertisements submitted at the office) thus opened a popular printed sphere, legally situated between the political newspapers and the periodicals. The papers were small, only four to eight pages in quarto. While political papers were limited by law and privilege to publishers in Copenhagen, adresseaviser soon emerged in provincial towns, such as Helsingør (Elsinor, 1767) and Odense (1772). They became the first papers in Norway: Christiania (Oslo) in 1763, Bergen, 1765; and Trondheim, 1767.5 A political newspaper did not appear in Norway until 1807, when Britain held Copenhagen and its newspapers in a state of blockade. Imported Danish newspapers remained on the Norwegian market well into the 1800s.

As for all printed texts, pre-censorship applied to papers and periodicals up to 1770, when King Christian VII’s physician Johann Friedrich Struensee usurped the power and declared full freedom of the press. After his execution in 1772, post-censorship was imposed and then severely tightened from 1799. In 1814, Norway was ceded to Sweden in the fallout of the Napoleonic wars after having secured an independent constitution. It stated, “There shall be freedom of expression” (Article 100). Denmark remained an absolute monarchy with censorship legislation until 1848. Throughout the censorship period in both countries, literary forms within and outside the press remained important for voicing more or less cloaked messages of satire or controversial opinions.

1740–1760: Periodicals in Tradition of The Spectator

Fiction entered the Danish periodical press early on. The periodicals of the 1720s by the printer and brothel owner Povel Phønixberg in Copenhagen offered humorous stories, often bordering on lewd, for mere entertainment. Their titles reflect and satirize the new periodical media and their related urban public sphere as inherently unreliable: Den forkeerte Mercurius som medfører allehaande u-hørte og forkeerte Nye-Tidender (The false Mercury carrying all sorts of unheard-of and fake news) and Det nye indrettede Thee og Caffe-Huus (The newly established tea and coffee house; both 1726). Joachim Richard Paulli’s periodical, Christ-opbyggelig TiidsFordriv (Christ-edifying Pass-Time; 1734–1737) was, as its title suggests, far more edifying. Its frame narrative tells of two men, a mentor and his young friend, discussing subjects and people they encounter in and around the city. The texts range from moral essays, stories, and dialogues to religious texts for contemplation. It has been termed a “spectator-novel,” published periodically.6

The first notable imitator of The Spectator was published by the young student Jørgen Riis in Copenhagen from 1744: Den danske Spectator.7 The aim was traditional: to encourage morality and prevent vice, within an internationally successful genre and medium. The journal portrays a number of characters of both sexes and employs dialogues of the dead in order to criticize the behavior of social groups such as aristocrats, clergymen, teachers, and women. Riis’s moral criticism is closely connected with politics. He argues for more freedom of expression and social equality to an extent, which was groundbreaking (and potentially illegal) in Denmark at the time. The reaction was accordingly, and the debate that followed termed “the spectator feud.” Riis contributed to the heated debate by publishing a parallel anonymous journal, The Danish Anti-Spectator (Den danske Anti-Spectator), where he argued against himself in verse. Playing with positions and identities was in character for a spectator persona and journal, but furthermore a necessity for facilitating debate in a censored public sphere. Riis does not employ the standard device of a society of spectators, sharing their different views and stories. However, several of his successors stage a variety of voices and positions, including female ones.

Female Spectators

Moral weeklies, such as The Spectator, were generally aimed at both male and female readers. Still, periodicals specifically for female readers soon followed. Denmark was no exception. The first was La Spectatrice danoise (The Danish female spectator; 1748–1750) written in French by the Huguenot Laurent Angliviel de La Beaumelle and published for readers connected with the court in Copenhagen. The tone is humorous, at times quite satirical, as the female spectator explores standard moral issues as well as controversial questions of religion and science. While no female society was constituted, different voices were presented. Notable instances are letters from a Greenlander and a Jute describing the vain and provincial social life in Copenhagen, imitating Montesquieu’s Persian Letters (Lettres persanes). Female spectators reached a wider audience from the 1750s and 1760s, in Danish. The first to enter the stage was Actricen (The actress), published by the prolific writer and editor Niels Prahl in 1758. It takes as its starting point the trope of society as a stage and all citizens as actors playing their parts, including parts of the opposite gender. In each weekly number, the actress plays a new role: the frugal wife, the unfortunate maid, the bachelor who believes himself to be happy, etc. The aim is to preach morality to women in an entertaining way, from many different perspectives, the inherent irony being that she herself, as an actress, is not seen as a morally trustworthy person.

The next publication in this genre is Christian Gormsen Biering’s Uge-Bladet Thee-Bordet (The tea table weekly; 1762). It is addressed to a female audience, by a man, who wants to give them something new to talk about over tea. The author recounts how he found a crying noblewoman in the woods, Miss S, and she tells him the story of her life and unhappy love. Then he meets her lover, and he tells him his side of the story. The author falls asleep and a hermit tells his tale of love in the dream. And so on, as in the Decameron, different people step forward to tell their story of love. It is a take on the spectator society, in this case dramatized within a narrative and a journey. Biering continued to publish female spectators with a twist. His follow-up was Fruentimmer-Tidenden (The women’s paper; 1767–1770), with a small section for male readers, called the Friday society. It has a regular female spectator society, made up of characters of different stations and ages, such as the “young, happy maiden,” “the house keeper,” “the barber’s widow” and “the old maid.” They proclaim that women should write as well as read, to develop their feelings and sharp wit. Furthermore, readers are invited to write pieces for the journal in the given characters. It presents traditional moral pieces in the form of the characters’ stories, but the society also supplies the readers with practical knowledge: on gardening, a new laundry machine, caring for children and animals, or (for the men) installing a secure lock in the door.

1760–1780: Local Newspapers without News

Biering’s female spectators were published and distributed from the office of intelligence (adressekontor) in Copenhagen, where he was employed from 1764. The office’s own newspaper carried content collected from moral weeklies, as well as other kinds of periodicals and books. For the first two decades of intelligencers (adresseaviser in the 1760s and 1770s), literature made up a significant portion of their original and translated content. Two-thirds were translated from German, French, or English, but very few from other Nordic countries.

We find texts by Benjamin Franklin residing in North America to texts by the poet Sa’di from Persia. Classical authors such as Horace and Petrarch are represented, as are major 18th-century authors like Alexander Pope, Voltaire, and Lessing. However, most texts were printed anonymously, even with titles missing or changed. This practice opened up a room for interpretation where old and imported texts often would be published and read within a local and contemporary context.

Fables and Stories

Adresseaviser provided a broad range of literary genres, collected from foreign newspapers, books, pamphlets, and magazines, or offered up by a local writer. The fables, being short and with a potential for double meaning, was the most popular form, whether it was a translation from Gellert or Jean de La Fontaine, or locally written. There are no serial novels, as we know them from the next century, but there are serialized extracts of novels and even a comedy (Pamela by Carlo Goldoni).8 François Fénelon’s episodic and didactic novel Télémaque (1699) appeared in selected installments in Bergen 1768–1770, making it the first serial novel in the Norwegian press. The extracts would typically focus on short episodes with a pronounced moral lesson, aimed at young readers. (It had been particularly recommended for girls by Rousseau in Émile in 1762.) However, adult readers could meditate on the description of the shipping town of Tyre and its blessings resulting from free trade, unlike the situation in Bergen (the translator/editor notes). Poems and essays were far more frequent, but often printed with attention to similar local contexts of interpretation. Many essays and short stories came from important moral weeklies, like those by Addison and Steele and their German, Swiss, or Danish counterparts. The essays may take up almost an entire issue, leaving room for only a few advertisements. In this sense, the weeklies at times come close to being moral weeklies.

The blurry line between fiction and non-fiction in 18th-century newspapers is often hard to distinguish for modern readers. Since news items did not belong in the local papers, especially controversial ones, major events are often left to be commented on in literary form. When a major peasant revolt took place in Bergen in April 1765, just a few months after the town’s paper was started, the event is not mentioned in its columns. However, several months later, a story “found in an Arabic manuscript” is printed, which bears close resemblance to the local incident. The story is of the brave Hasan, who has managed to subdue an uprising in Basra and is duly awarded with a promotion by the grand caliph of Baghdad. It ends with a praise of Christian VII, who surely will reward his virtuous subjects in the same way. And so he did. Loyal men in Bergen were promoted for their assistance during the uprising. By dressing the panegyric address to the king in fashionable oriental robes, it was made more pleasing and conveyed the supplicant’s literary abilities, as well as his loyalty. While pseudo-orientalism was a recurring feature of panegyrics, using the local paper to display it was new. It made it more of a public and perhaps even a collective praise.

Experiments in Poetry

The locally written texts were mainly poetry. As the newspapers provided accessible and free publication opportunities, young writers seeking readers and patrons used the papers for marketing samples of their produce. While this often entailed the publication of occasional poetry, particularly written for funerals of notable citizens, it opened for experiments with and criticism of new literary forms as well. The German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803) settled in Copenhagen in 1751, where he lived until 1770, taking center stage on the literary scene. He contributed to the German-language periodical Der nordische Aufseher (The Nordic Spectator; ed. Johan Andreas Cramer, 1758–1760), where his famous poem “Der Frülingsfeier” (1759) appeared. His new form of non-rhyming, ecstatic poetry, became influential yet controversial in Denmark–Norway. The controversy resonated in the press. In the first year of the first Norwegian newspaper, Norske Intelligens-Sedler (Norwegian Intelligencer; 1763), a prose poem appeared, stirring debate for two reasons. Published anonymously by the occasional poet Michael Sundt Døderlein, “Ævigheden” (“Eternity”) describes how various persona try—and fail—to grasp eternity. Only the first part of the long poem was printed. The second, due to appear the following week, was stopped by the local censor, the bishop. It was illegal for laymen to analyze religious matters too profoundly. The enraged poet declared he would send his poem to the more liberal Copenhagen for publication. There it appeared in his collection of Attempts in free poetry in the Danish Language (Forsøg til frie Poesie i det danske Sprog (1765). Døderlein’s fellow newspaper poets were unimpressed. A debate ensued, conducted in a highly satirical and irreverent tone, resulting in not too impressive rhymed and unrhymed poetry on both sides. The rhyme-free party presented a first translation of a Norse song of King Håkon the Good, Hákonarmál, to back their form as historically rooted. The tone sparked the publisher’s decision to introduce newspaper editors the following year.

One of Klopstock’s Danish protégés was Johannes Ewald (1743–1781). His poetry brought him immediate recognition as a significant reformer of Danish poetry, with a distinctly original and personal voice. While recognized as a genius, his style inspired by non-classicist British and German authors made earning a living on the traditional book market more difficult. In the 1760s and early 1770s, he gained part of his income by writing occasional and other poems published in Copenhagen’s adresseavis. His poem for the late Lady Schulin in June 1770, for instance, is recognized as one of the first of its genre to display the persona’s true, individual emotions, rather than the more stilted, conventional laments.9 Among Ewald’s other poems in the paper are the well-known “Rungsteds Lyksaligheder. En Ode” (The joys of Rungsted. An ode) and “Da jeg var syg” (When I was sick). The latter, printed in September 1771, caused an immediate response from a fellow writer and admirer, Claus F. Fasting (1746–1791). Ewald’s poem praises and explores the pain and illness (“the poison”) of both body and soul as a means of finding a way to understand the true nature of the self. It marks the breakthrough for a new kind of poetry in Denmark: darker, more sensitive, and individual than the light pastorals of many of his fellow writers. Fasting was one of those, which is reflected in his poetic response a few days later in the same paper: “Da jeg var frisk” (When I was well). While admiring Ewald as a poet, Fasting claims he has gone too far this time. He calls for art, love and wine to lift the spirit and give life meaning. The two poems were reprinted as a pair in other periodicals, reflecting a core struggle in the evolving literary discourse.

The following year (1772), Fasting became one of the founding figures of The Norwegian Society (of poets) in Copenhagen. He continued to publish poetry in the newspaper, but from 1778 he was back in his hometown of Bergen where he started his own periodicals: Provinzialblade (1778–1781) and Provinzial-Samlinger (1791). Both periodicals delighted their readers with his poems, particularly his satirical epigrams, as well as philosophical stories, translations, and essays. While Fasting is mainly remembered today for his journalism, Ewald remains at the center of the Danish literary canon. Many of his poems from the late 1770s onward appeared in the literary periodical Det almindelige Danske Bibliothek (The universal Danish library; 1778–1780), edited by his most ardent supporter, the literary critic, poet and teacher Werner Abrahamson. The periodical was born out of the Danish equivalent of The Norwegian Society, established by Abrahamson in 1775. Among Ewald’s poems first printed there are “Klagesang over Skiødehunden: Maske” (Laments for the lap dog Maske) and “Indføds-Retten” (The nationality law).

1770–1900: Children’s Periodical Literature

The 1760s saw a growth in local journals as well as newspapers, both media addressing a wide range of readers of literature. However, toward the end of the century, literary content in newspapers decreased, making it predominantly a journal matter. In the 1780s and 1790s, new major literary and aesthetic periodicals flourished alongside a range of periodicals catering to new and wider readerships, including women and children. Periodicals dedicated to young readers were a novelty.

The first appeared in 1770: Ungdommens Ven (Youth’s friend) by the Copenhagen vicar Bendix Krøll. Krøll presents texts for entertainment and education of children. He portrays his readers as active and demanding, reading aloud to their parents (not the other way around), and writing letters to the editor. The fictitious letters outlines a society of boys and girls from different backgrounds, called “The invisible society.” The girls advocate their right to read and write, mirroring female spectators for grown-ups.

Discussions of children’s literature is also a main feature of Avis for Børn (Newspaper for children; 1779–1782) written by Niels Prahl and Emmanuel Balling. Published by the office of intelligence in Copenhagen, it starts out as a newspaper for children with all the well-known newspaper genres: news; advertisements; death notices (of dead children); trade and shipping; book recommendations; letters from readers; as well as short plays, moral stories, and essays. The model child readers are actively present in its columns, too. Whether popular novels are suitable for children is the topic of a heated debate in fictional “letters to the editor” between the two siblings Johannes and Frederica. The editors reply by recommending a list of books, many of them written by the editors themselves.10

Billed-Magazin for Børn (Illustrated magazine for children; 1838–1839) was the first children’s periodical to appear in Norway.11 Its editor was the prolific Maurits Hansen (1794–1842). Among his coeditors and contributors were Peder Christian Asbjørnsen (1812–1885) and Jørgen Moe (1813–1882), who later became renowned for their collections of Norwegian fairy tales. The magazine presented folk tales as well as stories by Hansen, poems by Moe and Danish authors Steen Steensen Blicher and Christian Winther. The main content of Børnevennen (Children’s friend; 1843–1852) by Niels Andreas Biørn (1807–1887) was the serialized story, often imported from Denmark or translated from German. His magazine included poems by Henrik Wergeland and tales by H. C. Andersen. When Anthon Bang (1809–1870) started Børnenes Blad (Magazine for children; 1861–1874) he continued in this vein with fables and authors such as Moe and Andersen. The magazine continued to 1884 under Falck Ytter (and others), who also published a second periodical, For Ungdommen (For the youth). While he modernized and diversified the content, the entertaining serial remained a key feature, often written by Ytter himself. In addition, books were distributed as part issues with the periodical or sold as books that readers could order from the editor. Furthermore, Børnenes Blad saw the first Norwegian translation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) in 1870, or rather the first two chapters and a summary of the rest.12

The Art of Children’s Literature

The teacher Johan Nordahl Brun Rolfsen (1848–1928) raised the level of children’s periodicals considerably with his ambitious Illustreret Tidende for Børn (Illustrated periodical for children; 1885–1894), first published in Bergen, later in Christiania. Children’s love of reading should be developed by presenting them with the best of original and translated literature and non-fiction, illustrated by outstanding artists. The periodical featured translations of Zacharias Topelius, Louisa May Alcott, Ivan Turgenev, and Leo Tolstoy; original stories and tales by Jonas Lie, Asbjørnsen and Moe, Dikken Zwilgmeyer, and Bernt Lie; and illustrations by major artists such as Theodor Kittelsen, Christian Krohg, and Erik Werenskiold. The common features of the texts and images were realism and an understanding of the child’s perspective, leaving a lasting legacy. In this tradition we find Norsk Barneblad (Norwegian children’s magazine), started in 1887 under the name Sysvorti (The blackbird), which continues to this day [2017]. It is written in Landsmål (today New Norwegian) and has been seminal in producing literature and other texts for children in this language. Both language and content aimed to stay close to the readers’ own experience and daily life. The fiction included songs, poems, folk tales, and stories by notable Landsmål writers such as Ivar Aasen, Arne Garborg, and Rasmus Løland, as well as translations of, for instance, the brothers Grimm’s fairy tales.

In Denmark, the most notable of the early children’s magazines was Maanedsskrift for Børn (Children’s monthly magazine; 1845–1847), written and edited by Hans Vilhelm Kaalund and Julius Chr. Gerson (1811–1894). It is known for several original children’s songs and fairy tales. Among them are Andersen’s “The Bell” (1845), which first appeared here, as well as tales by the editors strongly resembling some of Andersen’s.13 Andersen was a recurring figure in these magazines. The first issue of Illustrered Børneblad (Illustrated children’s magazine; 1871–1878) featured a large portrait of him, as well his rhymed tale of two carrots (“Spørg Amagermoer”). Other new poems by Andersen occurred over the next years.14 Among the many competing Danish children’s magazines Dansk Børnetidende (Danish children’s paper; 1889–1918) and Børnevennen (1867–1919) remained popular with their readers. The latter presented stories, fairy tales, and poems by a range of Danish writers.

The stories of children’s magazines of the 18th and 19th centuries are often edifying and educational. Still, surprisingly often their focus is on the child’s perspective and interests, taking care to provide them with original literature that they find entertaining to read. In that regard, the periodicals and newspapers catered in similar ways to readers of all ages, and helped develop a literature in touch with its readers and the times.

1770–1814: Literary Periodicals in the Age of Revolutions

From the 1770s onward, the periodicals reflect the revolutionary backdrop of France and America in its increasingly sharper debates, occasionally veiled in literary form. The major periodical for aesthetics and politics was Minerva (1785–1807), which became a main source of information about the French revolution. Minerva was widely read in both Denmark and Norway. It was edited by Christen H. Pram and Knud Lyhne Rahbek, who both wrote a number of poems, stories, and articles for the journal. Furthermore, they published poems and songs by leading Dano-Norwegian authors, such as Jens Baggesen, Malthe Conrad Bruun, Magdalene Buchholm, and Peter Andreas Heiberg.

Peter Andreas Heiberg (1758–1841), the enfant terrible of the late 18th-century Denmark, was a prolific writer. He turned out numerous comedies, songs, and periodicals, more often than not criticizing high-ranking people or institutions in Copenhagen. His periodical in novel form, Rigsdalersedlens Hændelser (The adventures of the dollar note; 1787–1793), is notable in that regard. The periodical takes the form of an it-narrative, depicting a bank note’s observations as it passes through the hands of different people of varying stations in life. No one is spared his irony, from merchants to nobility. Furthermore, he condemns the lottery, the tax system, the German influence in Denmark, and comments on other topical and political issues of his day.

Heiberg’s attack on nobility in the club song “Hver Man i Byen om Indtoget taler” (Everyone in the city talks about the [royal] procession; 1790) became stratospherically famous and chanted across the kingdom. The most notable song line is the one where he calls recipients of royal orders “idiots.” Originally a song written for a private club, it was printed in a periodical (Morgenposten) where it reached a wide audience. Another of his club songs, “Vor Klub er dog en herlig Sag” (Our club is a wonderful thing; 1794), printed unauthorized by Rahbek in the journal Den danske Tilskuer (The Danish Spectator), resulted in a trial and a heavy fine for insulting British royals. In the end, Heiberg’s constant flow of criticism came to a sudden halt. A commission was appointed to review the limits of press freedom, which was subsequently firmly restricted in the 1799 decree. Heiberg was exiled, living in Paris for the rest of his life.

In Christiania, the main periodical at the end of the century was Hermoder (1795–1800), named after the Mercury of Norse mythology. It was a miscellaneous periodical, printing pieces on education, science and technology, morals and history, as well as a number of new poems. It aimed to be a Norwegian Minerva or Den danske Tilskuer, being particularly attentive to home-grown authors and topics and avoiding the Danish appetite for poetry on “women and wine.”15 The poets include a number of the leading Norwegian figures at the time, such as Jonas Rein, Jens Zetlitz, Christiane Koren, Ditlevine Feddersen, and Thomas de Stockfledt. Stockfledt’s contribution is even written in a Norwegian dialect, while the others’ fall into traditional categories, such as occasional poetry or meditations on nature and love.

1814–1850: From Romanticism toward Realism

Morgenbladet (The morning paper) appeared in 1819 as the first Norwegian daily newspaper. The publisher, the vicar and newspaperman Niels Wulfsberg, hired his talented relative Maurits Hansen as editor for the literary Sunday issue. Hansen thus became the first paid literary editor in Norway. Hansen published poems and stories written by himself and his friends, as well as translating current literature, particular from German. His first issue includes a chapter from his gothic novel Othar af Bretagne (Othar of Brittany), featuring passionate medieval knights in misty landscapes. It clearly draws on German Romanticism, with Friederich H. K. Fouqué’s novels as obvious models. Stories by Fouqué himself appeared in Morgenbladet, as did texts by his friend E. T A. Hoffmann. The translations of Hoffmann were the first to appear in Norwegian. The paper continued to introduce major new authors to local readers, as well as influence local authors’ texts. Readers preferring traditional literature were appeased by 18th-century writers such as Johann Gottfried vonHerder and Jean Paul, as well as Norwegian poets Johan Nordahl Brun and Christian Braunmann Tullin.

Maurits Hansen

Hansen was seminal in introducing new literary and journalistic genres, often in combination. His original periodical literature left two lasting legacies regardless of medium: the sketch and the crime story. Two weeks after his novel excerpt was published in Morgenbladet, he offered his readers the story “Luren, en Fortælling” (The lure, a story). It has been termed the first Norwegian “countryside story,” a genre to become immensely popular within the movement of national romanticism around the mid-19th century. The story is written in the form of a letter from “Carl” to a friend. He writes from the valley of Gudbrandsdalen, which he terms “the true Norway.” He depicts a landscape he thinks rivals the admired Swiss Alps, inhabited by broad-shouldered farmers in national costumes, playing the lure (a 2–5 m long brass or woodwind instrument) at sunset to summon cattle from the fields. Morgenbladet continued to print letters from the medical student Carl over the next three years, “sent” from different parts of Southern Norway. Some were termed “stories,” others given no title or genre. When they were later collected in book form, Hansen titled this unprecedented form of fictional reportage in the Norwegian press “Sketched national stories in letters from Carl Mølmann.” They pre-date Charles Dickens’ Sketches by Boz by fourteen years and bear closer relation to short stories than the Paris tableaux of Louis-SébastianMercier of the 1780s. By way of unauthorized translations, “Luren” soon reached readers of periodicals abroad as well.

Hansen’s second legacy, the detective story, dates back to his work Mordet paa maskinbygger Roolfsen (The Murder of Roolfsen the mechanical engineer). The novel was printed in the periodical Norske Læsefrugter (Norwegian fruits of reading) in 1840, a year prior to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murder in Rue Morgue. The detective investigating Roolfsen’s disappearance, lawyer Barth, might be the first-known literary detective. In Denmark, St. St. Blicher published a murder mystery as early as 1829, in the periodical Nordlys (Northern lights). “Præsten i Vejlbye” (The vicar of Vejlbye) included many of the genre’s later characteristics, but not a detective figure to solve “the who-dunnit.” Hansen continued to be a popular and prolific writer and editor in the periodical press. He admitted that the speed of periodical publishing took its toll on quality: “Everything had to gallop ahead, and the result is accordingly.”16

Camilla Collett

While few read Hansen today, he inspired contemporary talents, among them Norway’s first major novelist, Camilla Collett (1813–1895). Her printed debut, “A Day by Eidsvold Bath” (“En Dag ved Eidsvoldsbrønden”), appeared in the newspaper Den Constitutionelle (The constitutional) in 1841. This conservative paper was edited by a group of intellectuals counting among its members her husband Jonas Collett and the poet Johan Sebastian Welhaven. It was strongly influenced by French journalism and had taken up the feuilleton section as one of the first papers in Christiania. Collett was asked to assist in writing articles for the column. She describes how she was immediately recognized as the author of the anonymous piece that poetically depicts the journey to the bath and its surrounding landscape. Soon she emerged as an essayist championing women’s position in society, a topic that would become her fictional and journalistic trademark. In her ironically titled essay “Some reflections while knitting” (“Nogle Strikketøi-betragtninger,” 1842), she publicly denounces society’s view of women and calls for “our Gentlemen’s” attitudes to be discussed in the feuilletons.17 This topic became the main issue of her novel The District Governor’s Daughters (1854–1855), which ensured her a lasting place in Scandinavian literary history.

In her own life, she challenged restricting conventions as a working woman. Widowed early, she traveled abroad as a reporter to Berlin and Paris in the 1860s. Her texts are those of an urban flaneuse, following in the footsteps of Heinrich Heine and Dickens’s “Boz.” Walking alone in the city is a new, liberating experience for her as a woman, well suited for observing the fleeting and shifting nature of people and activities. From Berlin she writes to Illustreret Nyhedsblad (Illustrated newspaper): “We have to walk. Women who always go by carriage are bored to death. The days when woman was a luxury item for men is over. . . . We have to labor, work, fight and romp about, in one word: we have to walk. At great cost we have purchased this independence” (1863).18 While deeply realistic and contemporary, the journalistic pieces have clear literary aspects as well. For instance, her depiction of a boarding house in Paris takes as its starting point a long excerpt from Honoré de Balzac’s Father Goriot. Furthermore, its truthfulness is adjusted so that sensitive Norwegian readers will not be offended. The reporter is also a fiction writer, and the fiction writer a politically engaged woman, walking the walk.

Thomasine Gyllembourg

In Denmark, the major female author of the early 19th century was Thomasine Gyllembourg. Like Collett, her literary debut resulted from her aiding a male relative in the press. Gyllembourg’s son by P. A. Heiberg, the journalist and playwright Johan Ludvig Heiberg, had started a periodical in 1827: Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post (Copenhagen’s flying post). It became a leading publication for literature and theater and important for emerging poets and authors of short fiction, including Christian Winther and Hans Christian Andersen. After complaining to his mother of the strains of filling the pages by himself, she anonymously submitted a “Letter from a Lieutenant” to help him out. Because the story took its departure from a real newspaper advertisement, it was widely discussed as a true story. She continued to submit “letters,” without revealing their author’s identity, which later came to constitute the novel The Polonius Family (1827).

Gyllembourg’s contributions moved on to regular short stories, still taking their topics from real life. Her stories paint a picture of contemporary middle-class life in Copenhagen, particularly pointing to norms for female lives and personalities. One of her most famous stories, “An everyday story” (1828), is a case in point.19 Two sisters of opposite temperament and learning present the reader with the ideal of the well-read and domestic female, as opposed to the superficial and disorganized one. Gyllembourg’s production introduces a new form of literary realism, taking its cue from the context of newspaper genres and publication. Furthermore, she tried her hand at fairy tales in the romantic tradition in the 1830s, as did one of Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post’s other contributors: Hans Christian Andersen.

Hans Christian Andersen

As for many emerging writers, the press was important to Andersen (1805–1875) for establishing a name and an audience for his texts. One of the earliest was his famous poem “The Dying Child” (Det døende Barn), printed in the newspaper Kjøbenhavnsposten (The Copenhagen post) in September 1827. The twenty-two-year-old student’s poem had previously been printed in German, in a newspaper. Andersen’s new friend, J. L. Heiberg, reprinted it in Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post. By then, Andersen’s poems had appeared regularly in Heiberg’s paper. Andersen continued to contribute to periodicals in several genres. His best-known genre, the fairy tale, was no exception. His first tale “The Diving Bell” (Dykker-Klokken), written in verse, was published by Heiberg alongside “The Dying Child” in December 1827. The fantastical tale of a journey to the bottom of the sea, in the tradition of Lucian’s True Stories, resurfaced as a chapter in his book A Journey on Foot, printed in 1829.

Furthermore, in the newspaper columns Andersen’s tales took on a journalistic form by commenting people, phenomenon, or inventions of the day. That is apparent in the two tales published in January 1852. “Thousands of Years from Now” (Om Aartusinder), in the newspaper Fædrelandet (The Fatherland), describes clairvoyantly how future restless young Americans visit old world Europe by airships and an Anglo-French tunnel on expedient round trips: “Europe, seen in eight days.” The main national daily, Berlingske Tidende (Berling’s newspaper), printed his allegorical “The Swan’s Nest,” where “swans” from the nest of Denmark fly across the world, spreading art (the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen), literature (Adam Oehlenschläger), and technology (the physicist Hans Christian Ørsted).20 Andersen furthermore published travelogues in periodicals throughout his career, notably “A visit to Charles Dickens in the summer of 1857” (January–February 1860, in Berlingske Tidende).

1850–1870: The Rise of Serial Fiction

“The feuilleton article has assumed an importance and influence in the press, which its modest origins could hardly predict,” the feuilletonist of the Norwegian daily Rigstidende (The national newspaper) reports in the summer of 1844.21 In France, the feuilleton-section at the bottom of the page is now as important as the papers’ political content and is no longer limited to art criticism or short stories. “[I]t presents novels,—and big novels in three, five or ten volumes; it devours everything, it will soon supply us with an encyclopedia every month, and another one for free as filler,” Rigstidende reports. Two days later, Rigstidende joins the ranks of the other European papers: the three-volume historical romance Arabella Stuart by George Payne Rainsford James begins. It is the first-known feuilleton roman in Norway. Rigstidende refers to Eugène Sue’s famous The Mysteries of Paris (Paris’ Mysteries) in Journal de Debats as seminal to the popular genre, which had started with Balzac’s novel The Old Maid (La vielle fille), written for and published by La Presse in 1836. While Sue’s novel was still under publication, a Danish translation appeared in the conservative newspaper Dagen in Copenhagen. It had introduced a feuilleton column in April 1841, but a novel—The Mysteries of Paris—first appeared in July 1842, less than a month after the original. It was never completed in Dagen when it ended in 1843, but the doors were now open for novels in Danish newspaper columns.22

Sue’s novel was published in three Danish translations in the 1840s and 1850s. Furthermore, its success formula of episodic tales of crime and poverty in the city inspired many Danish epigones over the next decades, the latest published as late as 1913. Louis Toucher (1821–1896), a newspaperman and writer, published one of the most significant, Kjøbenhavns Mysterier (1847–1848), in six volumes. The setting was an ill-reputed part of Copenhagen, Christianshavn, in the first decade of the 19th century. It was followed by a number of novels with similar titles, later moving on to other Danish towns, as in the anonymously printed Aalborgs Mysterier (1869).23 Norwegian authors followed suit with Paul Botten-Hansen’s Norske Mysterier (Norwegian Mysteries, 1851)—a satirical take on the genre published in Illustreret Nyhedsblad—and Rudolf Muus’ Kristiania Mysterier (ca. 1901). Muus was one of the most prolific writers of his day, with 286 novels to his name. Many of them were criminal stories, depictions of working-class life in east end Christiania (or rather Kristiania, as it came to be spelled in the late 1800s), or historical novels, published in serial form as installments or newspaper serials. At times, he would have different serials running in several papers and periodicals simultaneously under a handful of pen names. With his book editions reaching total sales figures of around a million, in a population of approximately the same size, he was decidedly Norway’s most widely read author in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries.

The serial fiction would continue for decades to come. Translated literature dominated, as it did on the book market in general. The lack of international copyright treaties meant translations were inexpensive to print for Danish and Norwegian publishers. When the popular paper Flyveposten (The flying post) appeared in Copenhagen in 1845, the serial novel was an integral part from the start, beginning with Sue’s The Wandering Jew. Others hesitated to follow the new trend, but by the 1860s, most papers had given in to the readers’ demand, at least on an irregular basis. Initially the serials were placed below a line on the first and second page of the newspaper, printed in columns corresponding with the news articles. Later, they were more commonly printed as cut-out books, meaning the text was set as a book page. The pages had to be cut and folded to be easily read and collected and bound as regular books. The new practice made it more attractive to collect serial books (and buy newspapers) over a long period of time, while at the same time it physically set literature aside as a different kind of press text, sometimes set using a separate typeface. The serial cut-out novels were often sold in book form by the end of the year, or distributed as gifts to newspaper subscribers. In the 1870s and 1880s, this practice was further encouraged by the “libraries” of books published by newspapers, such as Nyt Hus-Bibliothek (New home library) or Norsk Folkebibliothek (Norwegian people’s library) in Verdens Gang (The course of the world). By reading the newspaper, the reader could collect a household library of useful and entertaining books. Both form and content of the serials thus engaged in a continuous circulation between the media of books and periodicals.

Influential Translations

Serial fiction had become staple content of the newspapers by 1870. It was popular with the readers, particular female ones, and secured subscribers to and thus the economy of the newspapers. While inexpensive translations on the Dano-Norwegian book market entered via translators and publishers in Denmark, in Norway termed “the Danish factories,” the situation seems to have been somewhat different for the press. Legislation and gentlemen’s agreements within the book market ensured that translations were not reprinted by others, nor two competing translations of the same work published, sometimes achieved through exclusion notices published in the trade press. Providing something new and exclusive, perhaps even sensational, became important for the literary section as for the rest of the newspaper. In consequence, newspapers hired their own translators, often women, to supply their readers with the latest popular literature circulating internationally. This opened a professional door for women to work in the press, increasingly finding positions as literary critics and editors as well.

The translators’ choice literature was initially predominantly German and French, but increasingly Anglo American and to some extent Swedish. Bestselling Émile Flygare-Carlén’s novels from Western Sweden were among the earliest serials in Norway. French authors included Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and George Sand. The social and political aspects of Hugo’s and Sue’s novels gave them an extra dimension as press texts. Not only did the originals take their cue from real life events, milieus, and readers’ letters to the author, but they affected political debate across Europe. Welhaven described in a preface to a collection of serial stories from Christiania-Posten (The Christiania post; 1856) this new literary industry of fiction addressing topics previously only debated in politics and science. While it was designed to reach a wide audience, and its topics were well suited to the newspaper context, Welhaven disapproved of the fragmented and digressional nature of these texts, where literature and entertainment came second to political tendency. Among the stories collected in this volume, some were taken from Dickens’s periodical Household Words (1851–1859), which first saw a novel like Hard Times (1854) as a serial. Dickens soon became a household name to newspaper readers over the next decades. While the social tendency made his novels important to current debates, his fame made the publication of a novel a novelty in its own right. When his last work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) started as a serial, Morgenbladet in Christiania hurried to present its readers with the latest installment. Unfortunately, Dickens died before the novel was completed, leaving his international readership with a literary mystery unsolved. One of the many risks of serial publication and translation became evident.

Other recurring British authors in the Norwegian press were Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Ellen Woods, and George Eliot. Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–1872) was so popular that it was published by several Norwegian and Danish publishers and newspapers in 1873, regardless of the competition. The 1860s and 1870s saw the influx of sensation novels from the United Kingdom, primarily novels of crime and gothic suspense, scandals or the occult. Florence Marryat, Wilkie Collins, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon were immensely popular in both local and national newspapers in Norway. Among American classics featured in the columns we find stories by Bret Harte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Washington Irving.

Reception studies of foreign literature have tended to neglect serial publication. Bearing in mind that a translation normally was published exclusively by a newspaper or in book form, looking at just one medium opens for misrepresentation of where and when these works of fiction were read and discussed. This has been the case of, for instance, E. T. A. Hoffmann or Jane Austen on the Dano-Norwegian marked. Translations of their works were in many cases only published by newspapers, or the press editions might pre-date the volume editions by decades. Equally, press editions of important works by Danish and Norwegian authors provide vital information on their original publication context, distribution, and amendments to the texts. Furthermore, the press played an important part in ensuring the status of such texts and authorships as classics, at home and abroad.

1850–1905: Scandinavian World Literature in Local Columns

Paul Botten-Hansen is better known for his friends and coeditors than his own periodical fiction. In 1851, he published the witty political and literary weekly Andhrimner (named after the chef in Valhalla; also called Manden—the man). It featured a logo of a running man drawn by his coeditor Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906). Ibsen published some of his first poems in the periodical under the pseudonym Brynjolf Bjarme. Among them are “The Swan” (Svanen) and “The miner” (Bjergmanden). The third editorial staff member was Aasmund Olavsson Vinje (1818–1870), who would become another key figure of Norwegian journalism and literature. Together with their fellow student in Christiania, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832–1910), they would make lasting impressions on Scandinavian and world literature, with the press as their common point of departure.

Aasmund Olavsson Vinje

Vinje’s hallmark was his combination of the language and outsider perspective of a poor farmer’s son with his scholarly learning and sharp, witty observations. The result was a literary journalism at times indistinguishable from fictional narrative. This is notable in his periodical Dølen (The man from the valley; 1858–1870). A Mr. Spectator-like editor, “Dølen,” reported on politics and life in Christiania. The voice is noticeably in Landsmål, which was a first for a periodical. He demonstrates how this language of the periphery is well-suited for a range of written genres, from articles and essays to travelogues and poems. The poems include “Vaaren” (The spring; 1860), a Horacian ode later sung for generations to the music by Edvard Grieg.

Vinje’s best-known literary journalism, bordering on and including fiction, is his travelogue Ferdaminni fraa Sumaren 1860 (Memories of a journey in the summer of 1860), published in book form for Dølen’s subscribers. It relates his 500 km journey from Christiania to the coronation of King Charles IV in Trondheim, mainly made on foot. The travelogue is interspersed with stories of people and events along the way, clearly patterned on literary predecessors such as Lawrence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768). By combining the description and praise of Norwegian nature and culture within the context of European classics, in a dialect-based language, Vinje managed to redefine Norwegian journalism’s national and international outlook simultaneously, in a semi-fictional form.24

Henrik Ibsen

Vinje’s coeditor at Andhrimner, Henrik Ibsen, had an active but short-lived career in the press. It started with the poem “In the Autumn” (I Høsten) signed Brynjolf Bjarme, printed on September 28, 1849, in Christiania-Posten. In his later poem “Building Plans” (Byggeplaner), he describes the delight of seeing his first poem on print: “I sat there in my den with the smoke clouds rolling free,/Sat smoking and sat dreaming in blest complacency.”25 In order to make his dreams come true, the press remained an important tool for reaching new readerships and recognition throughout his life. In the 1850s, the press was vital as Ibsen strove for recognition. After publishing his first drama Catiline (1850) in book form with little economic success, he left his next plays to periodicals. Andhrimner saw his first attempt at comedy, the opera parody Norma (1851). After moving to Bergen to become a theater director, his historical drama The Burial Mound (Kjæmpehøien) was serially published in the newspaper Bergenske Blade (Bergensian papers; 1854) after its premiere there. When he returned to Christiania, he struggled to find a publisher for Lady Inger (Fru Inger til Østeraad). Again his friend Botten-Hansen came to the rescue by suggesting he published it as an illustrated serial in his new periodical, Illustreret Nyhedsblad (1857). Ibsen was delighted, making suggestions as to its sectioning and trusting his friend to print it with beauty and taste as he saw fit. The printer secretly made some extra book copies, which he sold in his shop. Over the next years, subscribers to the periodical received two of Ibsen’s next plays, The Vikings at Helgeland (Hærmændene paa Helgeland; 1858) and Love’s Comedy (Kjærlighedens Komedie; 1862), as New Year’s gifts. These plays marked the end of serial publication for Ibsen, at least in Norway. After his success with Brand (1866) nothing except a “complete luxury edition” would do.26

Ibsen’s new fame made unauthorized reprints more attractive to publishers. The printer of Illustreret Nyhedsblad was sued by Ibsen for his “attack on my wallet,” namely, his intention to reprint Ibsen’s dramas.27 The case led to new legislation in Norway to protect authors’ copyrights.28 Similarly, the newspapers’ reprints of original and translated literature in their columns led to the Danish authors’ association being formed in 1894.29 Ibsen eventually chose the publisher Gyldendal in Copenhagen for his works, to reach a wider Scandinavian audience with high-quality editions. However, the lack of international copyright treaties (or rather Denmark and Norway not having ratified them), made Ibsen’s works popular for unauthorized reprints and translations abroad. Many of them appeared in periodicals and newspapers. At the same time, periodicals were useful to Ibsen in reaching new readers in Finland, Germany, or France. In the case of France, he actively supported periodical publication (and was handsomely paid for it) in order to access the notoriously difficult French market. As his fame grew, newspapers continuously printed poems and letters or the merest snippets of texts or autographs. Ibsen became a news item himself, in a very modern way, stalked by journalists and tourists who even broke into his home to secure souvenirs. Still, Ibsen remained an avid newspaper reader his whole life. His attention to topical issues and debates, such as women’s rights, or the politics of truth, justice, and majority rule, helped shape his writing in a way that gave it a sense of lasting relevance, beyond the ephemeral news column.

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson started his career as a journalist and critic of literature and theater. The future Nobel laureate’s prolific writings would address major topical debates and issues, which he never failed to engage in. It made him one of the most widely read authors and playwrights of his day, across Scandinavia and Europe. Yet his topicality leaves him as one of the great unread today. In 1855, he started his own periodical, Illustreret Folkeblad til Belærelse og Underholdning (People’s illustrated magazine for education and entertainment). It saw his first so-called countryside story (bondefortelling), called Synnøve Solbakken. It was printed in installments over the summer of 1857 and became his literary breakthrough. Bjørnson’s semi-realistic portrayal of farmers, written in a vernacular style, took a new path from the traditional pastoral depiction. Another country story appeared in the newspaper Aftenbladet (The evening paper), which he edited for a short period. It was called En glad Gut (A happy boy). Both the rags-to-riches story and some of its songs became popular with generations of readers. However, Bjørnson’s most read—and sung—poem appeared in Aftenbladet on October 1, 1869, for the opening of Parliament. “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (Yes, we love this country) would later go on to become Norway’s national anthem. Throughout Bjørnson’s life both literature and journalism remained important means of promoting his shifting political, moral, and religious ideas. The historian Ernst Sars named him the prime agent of the Norwegian “poetocrati,” referring to the major political influence authors had on society after 1814.

1870–1890: The Modern Breakthrough and Naturalism

Ibsen and Bjørnson were key figures in what came to be known as “The Modern Breakthrough” in Scandinavian literature. The term was coined by the most important Danish critic of the century, Georg Brandes (1842–1927). He took center stage with his lectures on Main Currents of 19th Century Literature (1871; published in six volumes, 1872–1890), urging Scandinavian authors to address revolutionary political ideas in their works of fiction and oppose the traditional values of the Church and conservatives. In his periodical, Det nittende Aarhundrede (The 19th century), he and his brother Edvard Brandes promoted the new dogma in their literary criticism as well as by publishing new authors of their taste. Among them were J. P. Jacobsen (1847–1885), Denmark’s main exponent of Naturalism and translator of Darwin’s works into Danish. His first short story, Mogens, appeared in the Brandes brothers’ periodical, and was followed by several others. Furthermore, it saw the first two chapters of Jacobsen’s debut novel, Fru Marie Grubbe (Mrs. Maria Grubbe; October 1874), which would become a huge success in in the volume edition of 1876. His characters’ lives are typically predestined by heritage and milieu, and described with psychological depth in a poetic language.

Another central Danish Naturalist, Herman Bang (1857–1912), wrote prolifically as a journalist and critic in addition to publishing dramas, novels and short stories. While he proclaimed that the two areas of writing should be kept separate, his journalism is highly literary and impressionistic. His subjective point of view is overt; his reportages constructed as scenes with direct speech, descriptions of setting, light and movements, colorfully portraying “reality.” The same is true of another major author and journalist, Holger Drachmann (1846–1908), who went even further. In his report of a shipwreck rescue operation in 1880, which he arrived too late to witness, he elaborates in detail on what the heroic effort could have looked like, drawing on imagery from Danish historic Romanticism.30 Again, the journalist and his subjective view and situation are as much the focus of the text as the event itself. In this regard Bang and Drachmann are indebted to the previous generation of Collett and Meïr Goldschmidt, the editor of Corsaren (The corsair; 1840–1846, a magazine of satire) and Nord og Syd (North and South; 1847–1859, a cosmopolitan magazine of politics and reportage). Bang underlines the connection between literary journalism and literary Realism himself by quoting Émile Zola: “everything we relate is Reality, but ‘Reality seen in the mirror of our temperament.’ ”31

The major proponents of Naturalism in Norway were Amalie Skram and Arne Garborg, both with careers in journalism. Skram (1846–1905) started as a literary critic in Bergen in the early 1870s, as one of the first female critics in the country. Many of her novels and stories address women’s difficult position in society, particularly with regard to love and marriage. As with most of the authors of The Modern Breakthrough, her works of fiction were published by Gyldendal in Copenhagen. However, in order to secure a publisher for her first novel, Constance Ring (1885), an excerpt was sent to and published by the periodical Tilskueren (The spectator; 1884). She applied the same method with Sjur Gabriel (five chapters in Nyt Tidsskrift) (New journal; 1887), the first of four novels with the collective title People of Hellemyr, a masterpiece in Scandinavian Naturalism. It follows the social struggle and decent of a family over four generations. While her next novels appeared as books, several of her short stories were first printed in periodicals and later collected in volumes. The reprints and recirculations ensured her a wider readership, more reviews, and higher revenues for her texts.

For Arne Garborg (1851–1924), life as a journalist and author remained closely intertwined. He was born to deeply religious farmers in Western Norway, a background that would influence his work in terms of language, ideology, and subject matter. Garborg moved to Christiania as a young journalist and in 1877 founded the newspaper Fedraheimen, written in Landsmål for workers and farmers. His struggle to break with his religious background is manifest is his first novella or story, published in his newspaper in 1878–1879. It is called Ein Fritenkjar (A Free-Thinker) and portrays a young man’s reluctant rebellion against conventional religious life and teachings, no longer in touch with religious experience or open to reform. It reflected Garborg’s own shift to atheism and radicalism, inspired in part by Brandes and Bjørnson. While alienating many of the newspaper’s readers, Garborg continued his mission of criticism. In 1882, the first six chapters of his novel The making of Daniel Braut were printed in Fedraheimen. The story of the farmer’s son Daniel Braut and his efforts to better himself through education is both funny and tragic at the same time. While it went on to become classic, its radical attacks on class, religion, and language stirred controversy among its readers and caused a public debate. Garborg was forced to leave the paper in 1883, but his contributions had only marked the beginning of a career in the same vein. Throughout his life he published volumes of essays, poems, stories, and novels, many of them first printed in the press and more often than not engaging in political, literary or religious conflicts of his time. Garborg’s sharp analysis, his lifelike characters, humor, and wit, as well as psychological studies left a profound mark on contemporary debate and literature, often being one and the same.

Knut Hamsun

After 1889, Georg Brandes’s radicalism took a Nietzschean turn, hailing the heroic individual as reformer. His new vision influenced the upcoming generation of authors of the 1890s, such as Knut Hamsun (1859–1952). Their interest did not lie with the social radicalism and realism of their predecessors, but tended toward a “new Romanticism,” exploring the inner workings of the (often eccentric) self. Hamsun openly opposed Ibsen and others of his generation and his new approach made it hard to find a publisher. Again, journalism and periodical publication were the ways forward for his authorship, as it had been for many before him. The daily Dagbladet (The daily paper) printed his short story “Et Livs-Fragment” (Fragment of a life), “by a young, unknown author” in 1884. His journalism in Dagbladet followed the subjective stance, most notably in his self-deprecating account of his unsuccessful literary tour of readings (“Paa tourné,” (On tour); 1886). It was reprinted several times over the years, in periodicals and book form, each time heavily revised to the extent of altering the ending completely. Its publication history exemplifies how his supposed non-fiction reportage became of lesser importance to him than literary composition. Hamsun’s breakthrough as an author came with a periodical publication. A text called “Sult” (Hunger) appeared in the Danish periodical Ny Jord (New soil; 1888). It was later included as part 2 of the novel by the same name (1890), which went on to become one of the Nobel laureate’s most famous novels. Furthermore, its first translation was that of an excerpt in a German periodical. The periodicals still remained important for reaching an audience at home and abroad for new authors.

The Unknown Literary History of the Press

Traditionally, there has been a tendency for media historians to ignore periodical fiction, and for literary historians to ignore the ephemeral periodical media. For bibliographers, indexing their content has remained a daunting task to endeavor. The result is that literature published in the Danish and Norwegian press has been left largely unaccounted for. However, by venturing to explore press texts belonging to or bordering on the realm of Literature, new perspectives emerges on journalism, the book market, and the professionalization of authors.

For emerging authors, the press remained the main entry gate to the literary public sphere for the entire period. This gateway proved to be particularly important to female writers and editors in the 19th century. In turn, their fiction and non-fiction press texts influenced the genres, discourses, and discussions of that sphere. From the fables and poems of the 19th century, to the political serial novels of the nineteenth, topical ideas and opinions blended new and old forms, becoming subject to daily public discussions. Hence the close ties between literature and journalism helped shape the development of both, in terms of genre, style, and content.

Furthermore, the day-to-day content of the newspaper page offered a context for interpretation of press texts, and an access to new readerships, that differed from those of volume editions. Indeed, many texts (even by canonical authors) never reached the book market, or were heavily altered to fit its new publication context. The periodical publication rate allowed for textual experimentation and speedy translation of international texts, making fiction in the press news items in their own right. Fiction remained an integrated part of the Dano-Norwegian press during its first three centuries.

The digitization of national newspaper archives opens this field to scholarly studies in an unprecedented way. The old columns of yesterday’s news hold hidden gems of texts and empirical data on text production, reception, and dissemination. This understudied material offers potentially groundbreaking findings to studies on translation, censorship, reception of works and authorships, the book market, development of genres and journalism—locally, nationally, and transnationally. Furthermore, it makes for important background to recent media developments, in terms of understanding recurrences of literary journalism, subjective points-of-view in non-fiction, or the testing of borders between non-fiction and fiction in press texts.

Discussion of the Literature

Chapters on periodical fiction were introduced in the latest Danish and Norwegian histories of the press.32 New studies of periodical media have begun to focus on their fictional content, both as entertainment and as ways of engaging in public discourse on politics, morals, history and philosophy.33 A renewed interest in scholarly editing has contributed to tracing periodical dissemination of canonical literature.34 Overviews of children’s periodical fiction have been written in both Denmark and Norway, with recent studies of the first examples from the 1700s.35

Further Reading

Bech-Karlsen, Jo. Åpen eller skjult. Råd og uråd i fortellende journalistikk. Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 2007.Find this resource:

Bruhn Jensen, Klaus. Dansk mediehistorie. Vol. 1. Mediernes forhistorie 1840–1880. Copenhagen: Samleren, 1996.Find this resource:

Christensen, Nina. Videbegær. Oplysning, børnelitteratur, dannelse. Århus, Denmark: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2012.Find this resource:

Dahl, Hans Fredrik. A History of the Norwegian Press, 1660–2015. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.Find this resource:

Dahl, Hans Fredrik et al., eds. Norsk presses historie, Vol. 1. En samfunnsmakt blir til: 1660–1880. Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 2010.Find this resource:

Dingstad, Ståle, and Aasta Marie Bjorvand Bjørkøy. Litterære kretsløp. Bidrag til en norsk bokhistorie fra Maurits Hansen til Gunvor Hofmo. Oslo, Norway: Dreyer, 2017.Find this resource:

Ibsen, Henrik. Henrik Ibsens skrifter. Vols. 1–14. Edited by Vigdis Ystad et al. Oslo, Norway: Aschehoug/University of Oslo, 2005–2010. Available online.Find this resource:

Kirchoff-Larsen, Chr. Den danske Presses Historie. Vols. 1–3. Copenhagen: Journalistforeningen, 1942–1962.Find this resource:

Krefting, Ellen, Aina Nøding, and Mona Ringvej. En pokkers skrivesyge. 1700-tallets tidsskrifter mellom sensur og ytringsfrihet. Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian Academic Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Krefting, Ellen, Aina Nøding, and Mona Ringvej. Eighteenth-Century Periodicals as Agents of Change. Perspectives on Northern Enlightenment. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.Find this resource:

Kristensen, Niels K. “Lærerne og Børneliteraturen.” In Lærerne og samfundet. Vol. 1. Edited by Carl Poulsen and W. Th. Benthin, 267–296. Copenhagen: Fr. Bagge, 1913.Find this resource:

Nøding, Aina. Vittige kameleoner. Litterære tekster i norske adresseaviser 1763–1769. Oslo, Norway: Unipub, 2007.Find this resource:

Økland, Einar. “Norske barneblad.” In Den norske barnelitteraturen gjennom 200 år. Edited by Tordis Ørjasæter et al., 94–118. Oslo, Norway: Cappelen.Find this resource:

Tjønneland, Eivind, ed. Opplysningens tidsskrifter. Norske og danske periodiske publikasjoner på 1700-tallet. Bergen, Norway: Fagbokforlaget, 2008.Find this resource:

Weinreich, Torben. “Børnebladene.” In Historien om børnelitteratur. Copenhagen: Branner og Korch, 2006.Find this resource:


(1.) Unless otherwise stated, translations are my own. For further analysis of this topic, see my PhD thesis, Vittige kameleoner. Litterære tekster i norske adresseaviser 1763–1769 (Oslo, Norway: Unipub, 2007); and my contribution to Hans Fredrik Dahl et al., eds., Norsk presses historie, Vol. 1. En samfunnsmakt blir til: 1660–1880 (Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 2010), ch. 4: “Fra fabler til føljetonger.” Titles have been given in English with the original in parentheses if a translation has been published. If no translation exists, the original title has been given with the author’s translation in parentheses.

(2.) S. Høyer and Ø. Ihlen, “Forfattere i pressen,” Norsk medietidsskrift 1 (1995): 29–42.

(3.) H. O. Hansen, Den norske litteratur fra 1814 indtil vore dage (København, Denmark: Fr. Wøldike, 1862), 43–45.

(4.) Ellen Krefting et al., En pokkers skrivesyge. 1700-tallets tidsskrifter mellom sensur og ytringsfrihet (Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian Academic Press, 2014), 62–64.

(5.) Today’s Oslo was called Christiania until 1925 (from the late 1800s often spelled Kristiania). The remains of the medieval town of Opslo lay outside of the city limits in this period. Trondheim was called Trondhjem or Trondhiem to 1930.

(6.) Hakon Stangerup, Romanen i Danmark i det attende Aarhundre (Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard, 1936).

(7.) The following presentation of the journal is based on Ellen Krefting et al., En pokkers skrivesyge. 1700-tallets tidsskrifter mellom sensur og ytringsfrihet (Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian Academic Press, 2014), 127–132.

(8.) Printed in Norske Intelligens-Sedler, from 2.4.1766. Available online. Chapters from novels include Voltaire’s Zadig and Lesage’s Gil Blas. For details on authors and works published in early Norwegian newspapers, see Aina Nøding, Vittige kameleoner. Litterære tekster i norske adresseaviser 1763–1769 (Oslo, Norway: Unipub, 2007).

(9.) Kiøbenhavns Adresse-Contoirs Efterretninger, June 18, 1770.

(10.) For the latest research on Danish eighteenth-century childrens’ magazines, see Nina Christensen, Videbegær. Oplysning, børnelitteratur, dannelse (Århus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2012); and her article “Lust for Reading and Thirst for Knowledge: Fictive Letters in a Danish Children’s Magazine of 1770,” in The Lion and the Unicorn 33 (April 2009): 189–201.

(11.) The following paragraphs are mainly based on Sonja Hagemann, Barnelitteratur i Norge inntil 1850 (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1965); and Einar Økland, “Norske barneblad,” Den norske barnelitteraturen gjennom 200 år, eds. Tordis Ørjasæter et al. (Oslo: Cappelen, 1981), 94–118.

(12.) Tuva Maria Engdal, Alice i Norge. En analyse av tre norske adaptasjoner av Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (MA thesis, Oslo, Norway: University of Oslo, 2016), 5.

(13.) Vibeke Stybe, Børnespejl (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1969), 183.

(14.) Torben Weinreich: “Børnebladene,” in Historien om børnelitteratur (Copenhagen: Branner og Korch, 2006). Available online.

(15.) O. A. Storsveen, “Hermoder, et norsk Minerva?,” in Opplysningens tidsskrifter, ed. E. Tjønneland (Bergen, Norway: Fagbokforlaget, 2008), 181.

(16.) Quoted from A. Fretheim, Livets kolde prosa. Maurits Hansen og hans samtid (Oslo, Norway: Aschehoug, 2006), 89.

(17.) C. Collett, Essays (Oslo, Norway: Grøndahl Dreyer, 1993), 19–25.

(18.) The text was published on December 27, 1864, and January 3, 1864.

(19.) Chr. Kirchoff-Larsen, Den danske Presses Historie, vol. 3. (Copenhagen: Journalistforeningen, 1962), 30.

(20.) Kirchoff-Larsen, Den danske Presses Historie, 403; and Klaus Bruhn Jensen, Dansk mediehistorie, vol. 1. (Copenhagen: Samleren, 1996), 156. The tales were printed on January 26 and 28 respectively.

(21.) Den Norske Rigstidende, June 9, 1844.

(22.) Jensen, Dansk mediehistorie, vol. 1.

(23.) Jensen, Dansk mediehistorie, vol. 1, 146; and Hougaard “Om knaldromaner, føljetoner og kolportagelitteratur i Danmark,” Magasin, vol. 3 (Copenhagen: The Royal Library, 1996), 8–9.

(24.) On Vinje’s journalism and literary heritage, see Jon Haarberg, Vinje på vrangen (Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 1985).

(25.) Translation by F. E. Garret, Lyrics and Poems from Ibsen (London: Dent, 1912), 1. The original was printed in Illustreret Nyhedsblad, March 14, 1858: “Der sad jeg i mit Kammer og med dampende Drag/jeg røgede min Pibe i saligt Selvbehag.”

(26.) In letter from Ibsen to F. Hegel, October 5, 1866. Available online.

(27.) See letters from Ibsen to H. J. Jacobsen, September 17, 1871; and F. Hegel, September 26, 1871. Available online.

(28.) See Narve Fulsås’ introduction to Ibsen’s letters in Henrik Ibsens skrifter, vol. 13, Kommentarer (Oslo, Norway: Aschehoug, 2008). Available online.

(29.) Lisbeth Worsøe-Smith, Forfatter i Danmark, 1894–1994 (Copenhagen: Dansk Forfatterforening), 145.

(30.) Klaus Bruhn Jensen, Dansk mediehistorie, vol. 1. (Copenhagen: Samleren, 1996), 214.

(31.) Jensen, Dansk mediehistorie, 215.

(32.) Jensen, Dansk mediehistorie; and Hans Frederik Dahl et al., eds. Norsk presses historie, Vol. 1. En samfunnsmakt blir til: 1660–1880 (Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 2010), abridged and translated into English in 2016.

(33.) Jo Bech-Karlsen, Åpen eller skjult. Råd og uråd i fortellende journalistikk (Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 2007); Ellen Krefting, Aina Nøding, and Mona Ringvej, En pokkers skrivesyge. 1700-tallets tidsskrifter mellom sensur og ytringsfrihet (Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian Academic Press, 2014); Ellen Krefting, Aina Nøding, and Mona Ringvej, Eighteenth-Century Periodicals as Agents of Change. Perspectives on Northern Enlightenment (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015); Aina Nøding, Vittige kameleoner. Litterære tekster i norske adresseaviser 1763–1769 (Oslo, Norway: Unipub, 2007); and Eivind Tjønneland, ed., Opplysningens tidsskrifter. Norske og danske periodiske publikasjoner på 1700-tallet (Bergen, Norway: Fagbokforlaget, 2008).

(34.) cf. Henrik Ibsen, Henrik Ibsens skrifter, vols. 1–14, eds. Vigdis Ystad et al. (Oslo, Norway: Aschehoug/University of Oslo, 2005–2010); and Ståle Dingstadb and Aasta Marie Bjorvand Bjørkøy, Litterære kretsløp. Bidrag til en norsk bokhistorie fra Maurits Hansen til Gunvor Hofmo (Oslo, Norway: Dreyer, 2017).

(35.) In Denmark: Niels K. Kristensen, “Lærerne og Børneliteraturen,” in Lærerne og samfundet, vol. 1, eds. Carl Poulsen and W. Th. Benthin (Copenhagen: Fr. Bagge, 1913), 267–296; Torben Weinreich, “Børnebladene,” in Historien om børnelitteratur (Copenhagen: Branner og Korch, 2006); in Norway: Einar Økland,“Norske barneblad,” in Den norske barnelitteraturen gjennom 200 år, ed. Tordis Ørjasæter (Oslo, Norway: Cappelen), 94–118; a recent study is Nina Christensen, Videbegær. Oplysning, børnelitteratur, dannelse (Århus, Denmark: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2012).