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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Almqvist, Karl Jonas Ludwig

< Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition

ALMQVIST, Karl Jonas Ludwig, one of the most extraordinary figures that the history of literature can produce, was born at Stockholm in 1793. He began life under highly favourable auspices; but becoming tired of a university career, he threw up the position he held in the capital to lead a colony of friends to the wilds of Wermland. This ideal Scandinavian life soon proved a failure; Almqvist found the pen easier to wield than the plough, and in 1829 we find him once more settled in Stockholm. Now began his literary life; and after bringing out several educational works, he made himself suddenly famous by the publication of his great novel, The Book of the Thorn-Rose. The career so begun developed with extraordinary rapidity; few writers have equalled Almqvist in productiveness and versatility; lyrical, epic, and dramatic poems; romances; lectures; philosophical, æsthetical, moral, political, and educational treatises; works of religious edification, studies in lexicography and history, in mathematics and philology, form the most prominent of his countless contributions to modern Swedish literature. So excellent was his style, that in this respect he has been considered the first of Swedish writers. His life was as varied as his work. Unsettled, unstable in all his doings, he passed from one lucrative post to another, at last subsisting entirely on the proceeds of literary and journalistic labour. More and more vehemently he espoused the cause of socialism in his brilliant novels and pamphlets; friends were beginning to leave him, foes beginning to triumph, when suddenly all minor criticism was silenced by the astounding news that Almqvist, convicted of forgery and charged with murder, had fled from Sweden. This occurred in 1851. For many years no more was heard of him; but it is now known that he went over to America, and under a feigned name succeeded in being appointed secretary to Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's death, Almqvist again fell under the ban of the law; his MSS., including several unprinted novels, were confiscated and destroyed, but he himself escaped to Europe, where under another alias he continued to exist a short time longer. His strange and sinister existence came to a close at Bremen in 1866. It is by his romances, undoubtedly the best in Swedish, that his literary fame will mainly be supported; but his singular history will always point him out as a remarkable figure even when his works are no longer read. He was another Eugene Aram, but of greater genius, and so far more successful that he escaped

the judicial penalty of his crimes. (

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