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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Olof von Dalin (1708–1763)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by William Henry Carpenter (1853–1936)
 
OLOF VON DALIN, “the father of modern Swedish poetry” was born at Vinberga, in Halland, Sweden, August 29th, 1708. He was one of the most important figures in Swedish literature during a transitional period, which in consequence of the influence he exercised has been called the “Dalin age.” He was the son of a clergyman, and studied at the University of Lund, where under the instruction of Rydelius he particularly devoted himself to French and English literature. At the age of twenty he went to Stockholm in the capacity of tutor, and in 1731 he entered the government service.  1
  His talents, brilliancy, and adaptability made him a universal favorite, and his career was singularly unobstructed. He was the embodiment of the vital new spirit which flashed upon the dullness of the time, breaking up formalism and dead tradition and introducing into literature an element which was destined to transform it.  2
  In 1732 there appeared in Stockholm a weekly paper, edited anonymously, devoted to literary topics and to the discussion of the questions of the day. The publication of this little sheet was the immediate result of Dalin’s English proclivities. His studies in English literature had formed his mind upon a new model, and the Svenska Argus (1732–34) was the Swedish counterpart of the English Spectator and a direct imitation of the example of Addison. The appearance of the Argus was a revelation. The public, accustomed to the monotonous dullness of its predecessors, was taken by storm by the wit, piquancy, and verve of the new periodical. Its first issue already relegated such publications as the Sedolärande Mercurius, itself only two years older, to the limbo of things outgrown. The paper at once attained universal popularity; and when the identity of the young editor became known he was acclaimed as the foremost writer of the land, and was overwhelmed with favors from every side.  3
  His next work was ‘Tankar om Kritiker’ (Thoughts about Criticisms), and the dramas ‘Den Afundsjuke’ (The Jealous Man), a comedy in imitation of Holberg, and ‘Brynhild,’ a tragedy. Returning from a tour, he created great enthusiasm by his ‘Saga om Hästen’ (The Story of the Horse), 1739; a witty prose narrative, in which, in the character of a horse, he related in a highly humorous manner the history of Sweden. This was followed by the satire, strongly suggestive of Swift, ‘Aprilverk om v̇r Herrliga Tid’ (April-work of Our Glorious Time), a piece of writing which delighted the public. In 1742 appeared what was regarded by his contemporaries as the attainment of his highest poetic efforts, ‘Svenska Friheten’ (Swedish Freedom), a didactic allegorical poem.  4
  Dalin was ennobled in 1751, and the youthful Queen of Sweden, Louise Ulrika, sister of Frederick the Great, appointed him to the double office of tutoring the young crown prince Gustav and writing a complete history of Sweden. These compulsory duties, and the frequent “festal” poems which in his capacity as court poet it devolved upon him to write, robbed him of the leisure to attempt any sustained effort; and from this time, aside from his History, the only products of his pen are “occasional” poems, of which a large number have been preserved.  5
  Dalin was the chief founder of the “Vitterhets-Akademie” (Academy of Arts and Sciences), established by Queen Louise Ulrika in 1753, which in 1786, under Gustav III., was transformed into the “Vitterhets-, Historie-, och Antiquitäts-Akademie.” He was appointed privy councilor in 1753, and subsequently being suspected of revolutionary intrigues, he was banished from the court. He returned in 1761. During the period of the exile he worked upon his ‘Svearikes Historia’ (History of the Kingdom of Sweden), which he ultimately brought down to the period of Charles IX. This appeared in four volumes, 1747–62. His collected works were published in 1767. He died at Drottningholm, August 12th, 1763.  6
  The immense influence of Dalin upon his age was disproportionate to the merits of his writings, and must be ascribed to his personality and to the new elements which he introduced, rather than to his creative genius. He was the force which opened new channels, the power which directed the new tendencies of his day. He broke away from the traditions of the German cult, which until his time had been the ruling power, and brought into Swedish the potent elements of French and English literature. Together with Madame Nordenflycht and other followers of his school, and aided by the French influence of the court, he completely transformed the character of the national literature.  7
 
 
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