Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Kellgren, Johan Henrik
KELLGREN, Johan Henrik (1751-95), Swedish poet and critic, was born at Floby in West Gothland, December 1, 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 æsthetics. Three years after this he removed to Stockholm, where in conjunction with Lenngren he began in 1778 the publication of the journal Stockholmsposten, whose chief contributor he continued to be almost throughout the remainder of his life. Kellgren was private librarian to Gustavus III. from 1780, and from 1785 his private secretary. On the institution of the Swedish Academy in 1786 he was appointed by the king one of its first members. He died at Stockholm after a severe illness of two years, April 20, 1795. Early familiar with the models of the French school of Voltaire, Kellgren did not till late in life awake to a sense of the value of the works of Lessing and Goethe. His strong satiric tendency led him into numerous controversies, the chief that with 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, but of the latter only the versification belongs to him, all the rest 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, Æneas 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 his increased knowledge of the newer German and English literature, 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 all his works. Among the lyrics of Kellgren are the choicest fruits of the Gustavian age of Swedish letters. His earlier efforts, indeed, express with great completeness 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 wide human sympathies in the most felicitous and melodious verse. His Samlade skrifter (3 vols., 4th ed., Örebro, 1860), revised by himself, were, in accordance with his own direction, published by his friends after his death. His prose works were translated into German by Lappe (Neustrelitz, 1801).
See Wieselgren, Sveriges sköna literatur, 1833-49; Atterbom, Svenska siare och skalder, 1841-55; C. W. Böttiger in Transactions of the Swedish Academy, xlv. 107 sq., 1870; and Gustaf Ljunggren's Kellgren, Leopold, och Thorild, and his Svenska vitterhetens häfder, 1873, 1877.