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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Heidenstam, Verner von

HEIDENSTAM, Verner von, Swedish poet and novelist: b. Olshammar, province of Nerike, 6 July 1859. He was at first destined to be a painter, but had to relinquish his studies at the Stockholm Art Academy because of ill health, which caused him to undertake extensive travels in southern Europe and the Orient. He was at once greeted as a poet of promise on the publication of his first collection of poems, Vallfat och Vandrinasår, 1888, which was followed by a second collection, ‘Dikter’ (‘Poems’) in 1895. His poems and prose work are filled with a great joy of life, sometimes imbued with a love of Swedish history and scenery, particularly its physical aspects, that avoids none of the excesses of chauvinism. ‘Från Col di Tenda till Bloxberg’ (1888), and ‘Endymion’ (1890) are pictures of travel; ‘Hans Alienus’ (1892) is a long poetic narrative; ‘Karolinerna’ (2 vols., 1897-98) a series of historical portraits of King Charles XII of Sweden and his cavaliers. In ‘Klassizität und Germanismus’ (published in German, Vienna 1901), Heidenstam advocates a sort of artistic exclusiveness, appearing as the champion of the classic spirit, which he considers essentially aristocratic, as opposed to the Germanic attitude which he considers democratic and reprehensible. In 1910 a savage controversy was waged in Swedish newspapers between a number of Swedish literary men, on the topic of the proletarian “degradation” of literature, the protagonists of the two opposing camps being August Strindberg (q.v.) and Heidenstam. Professors Lidforss and Böök also took part. Heidenstam's chief contribution was the pamphlet, directed chiefly against Strindberg, ‘Proletärfilosofians upplösning och fall’ (‘The Decline and Fall of the Proletarian Philosophy’). Translations of short stories from Karolinerna will be found in the American-Scandinavian Review (New York), May 1914, November 1915, and July 1916. The first volume of that work has also appeared in England.