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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Anne Charlotte Edgren-Leffler (1849–1892)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ANNE CHARLOTTE LEFFLER EDGREN, afterwards Duchess of Cajanello, was born in Stockholm, October 1st, 1849. She was the most prominent among contemporary women writers of Sweden, and won for herself an eminent position in the world of letters, not only for the truthfulness of her delineation of life, but for the brilliancy of her style and her skill in using her material. The circumstances of her early life were comfortable and commonplace. She was the only daughter of a Swedish rector, and from her mother, also the daughter of a clergyman, she inherited her literary tendencies. From her parents and her three devoted brothers she received every encouragement, but with wise foresight they restrained her desire to publish her early writings; and it was not until her talent was fully developed that her first book, a collection of stories entitled ‘Händelsvis’ (By Chance), appeared in 1869, under the pseudonym of “Carlot.” In 1872 she was married to Gustav Edgren, secretary of the prefecture in Stockholm; and though fitting and harmonious, this marriage was undoubtedly one of convenience, brought about by the altered circumstances of her life.  1
  In 1873 she published the drama ‘Skådespelerskan’ (The Actress), which held the stage in Stockholm for an entire winter, and this was followed by ‘Pastorsadjunkten’ (The Curate), 1876, and ‘Elfvan’ (The Elf), 1880, the latter being even more than usually successful. Her equipment as a dramatist was surprisingly slender, as until the time of her engagement to Mr. Edgren she had never visited the theatre, and necessarily was absolutely ignorant of the technique of the stage. Nevertheless, her natural dramatic instincts supplied the defects of a lack of training, and her plays met with almost universal success. The theme of all her dramas, under various guises, is the same,—the struggle of a woman’s individuality with the conventional environment of her life. Mrs. Edgren herself laments that she was born a woman, when nature had so evidently intended her for a man.  2
  Her first work to be published under her own name was in 1882,—a collection of tales entitled ‘Ur Lifvet’ (From Life), which were received with especial applause. Her works were translated into Danish, Russian, and German, and she now became widely known as one of the most talented of Swedish writers. In 1883 appeared a second volume of ‘From Life’; and still later, in 1889, yet another under the same title. These later stories betrayed a boldness of thought and expression not before evinced, and placed the author in the ranks of the radicals. The drama ‘Sanna Kvinnor’ (Ideal Women) appeared in 1883; ‘Huru Man Gör Godt’ (How We do Good) in 1885; and in 1888, in collaboration with Sónya Kovalévsky, ‘Kampen för Lyckan’ (The Struggle for Happiness).  3
  In company with her brother, Professor Mittag-Leffler, she attended a Mathematical Congress in Algiers, in the early part of the year 1888; and upon the return journey through Italy she made the acquaintance of Signor Pasquale del Pezzo, subsequently Duke of Cajanello, a mathematician and friend of her brother, and professor in the University of Naples. Mrs. Edgren was married to the Duke of Cajanello in 1890, after the dissolution of her marriage with Mr. Edgren. After this event she published a romance which attracted a great deal of attention, called ‘Kvinlighet och Erotik’ (Womanliness and Erotics), 1890, and among others the drama ‘Familjelycka’ (Domestic Happiness), and ‘En Räddende Engel’ (A Rescuing Angel), with which last she achieved her greatest dramatic success. Her last work was a biography of her intimate friend Sónya Kovalévsky. While in the midst of her literary labors, and in the fullness of her powers, she died suddenly at Naples, October 21st, 1892.  4
  The subjects of her writings are the deepest questions of life. Her special theme is the relation between men and women, and in her studies of the question she has given to the world a series of types of wonderful vividness and accuracy. The life that she knows best is the social life of the upper classes; and in all her work, but particularly in her dramas, she treats its problems with a masculine vigor and strength. Realism sometimes overshadows poetry, but the faithfulness of her work is beyond question.  5
 
 
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