1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kellgren, Johan Henrik

KELLGREN, JOHAN HENRIK (1751–1795), Swedish poet and critic, was born at Floby in West Gothland, on the 1st of December 1751. He studied at the university of Åbo, and had already some reputation as a poet when in 1774 he there became a “docent” in aesthetics. Three years later he removed to Stockholm, where in conjunction with Assessor Carl Lenngren he began in 1778 the publication of the journal Stockholmsposten, of which he was sole editor from 1788 onwards. Kellgren was librarian to Gustavus III. from 1780, and from 1785 his private secretary. On the institution of the Swedish Academy in 1786 he was appointed one of its first members. He died at Stockholm on the 20th of April 1795. His strong satiric tendency led him into numerous controversies, the chief that with the critic Thomas Thorild, against whom he directed his satire Nyt försök till orimmad vers, where he sneers at the “raving of Shakespeare” and “the convulsions of Goethe.” His lack of humour detracts from the interest of his polemical writings. His poetical works are partly lyrical, partly dramatic; of the plays the versification belongs to him, the plots being due to Gustavus III. The songs interspersed in the four operas which they produced in common, viz., Gustaf Vasa, Gustaf Adolf och Ebba Brahe, Aeneas i Kartago, and Drottning Kristina, are wholly the work of Kellgren. From about the year 1788 a higher and graver feeling pervades Kellgren’s verses, partly owing to the influence of the works of Lessing and Goethe, but probably more directly due to his controversy with Thorild. Of his minor poems written before that date the most important are the charming spring-song Vinterns välde lyktar, and the satirical Mina löjen and Man eger ej snille för det man är galen. The best productions of what is called his later period are the satire Ljusets fiender, the comic poem Dumboms lefverne, the warmly patriotic Kantat d. 1. jan. 1789, the ode Till Kristina, the fragment Sigwart och Hilma, and the beautiful song Nya skapelsen, both in thought and form the finest of his works. Among his lyrics are the choicest fruits of the Gustavian age of Swedish letters. His earlier efforts, indeed, express the superficial doubt and pert frivolousness characteristic of his time; but in the works of his riper years he is no mere “poet of pleasure,” as Thorild contemptuously styled him, but a worthy exponent of earnest moral feeling and wise human sympathies in felicitous and melodius verse.

His Samlade skrifter (3 vols., 1796; a later edition, 1884–1885) were revised by himself. His correspondence with Rosenstein and with Clewberg was edited by H. Schück (1886–1887 and 1894). See Wieselgren, Sveriges sköna litteratur (1833–1849); Atterbom, Svenska siare och skalder (1841–1855); C. W. Böttiger in Transactions of the Swedish Academy, xlv. 107 seq. (1870); and Gustaf Ljunggren’s Kellgren, Leopold, och Thorild, and his Svenska vitterhetens häfder (1873–1877).