Christian IV., 1588-1648.
First losses of territory.
Such then, briefly, was the condition of things in Denmark when, in 1588, Christian IV. ascended the throne. Where so much was necessarily uncertain and fluctuating, there was room for an almost infinite variety of development. Much depended on the character and personality of the young prince who had now taken into his hands the reins of government, and for half a century was to guide the destinies of the nation. In the beginning of his reign the hand of the young monarch, who was nothing if not energetic, made itself felt in every direction. The harbours of Copenhagen, Elsinore and other towns were enlarged; many decaying towns were abolished and many new ones built under more promising conditions, including Christiania, which was founded in August 1624, on the ruins of the ancient city of Oslo. Various attempts were also made to improve trade and industry by abolishing the still remaining privileges of the Hanseatic towns, by promoting a wholesale immigration of skilful and well-to-do Dutch traders and handicraftsmen into Denmark under most favourable conditions, by opening up the rich fisheries of the Arctic seas, and by establishing joint-stock chartered companies both in the East and the West Indies. Copenhagen especially benefited by Christian IV.'s commercial policy. He enlarged and embellished it, and provided it with new harbours and fortifications; in short, did his best to make it the worthy capital of a great empire. But it was in the foreign policy of the government that the royal influence was most perceptible. Unlike Sweden, Denmark had remained outside the great religious-political movements which were the outcome of the Catholic reaction; and the peculiarity of her position made her rather hostile than friendly to the other Protestant states. The possession of the Sound enabled her to close the Baltic against the Western powers; the possession of Norway carried along with it the control of the rich fisheries which were Danish monopolies, and therefore a source of irritation to England and Holland. Denmark, moreover, was above all things a Scandinavian power. While the territorial expansion of Sweden in the near future was a matter of necessity, Denmark had not only attained, but even exceeded, her natural limits. Aggrandizement southwards, at the expense of the German empire, was becoming every year more difficult; and in every other direction she had nothing more to gain. Nay, more, Denmark's possession of the Scanian provinces deprived Sweden of her proper geographical frontiers. Clearly it was Denmark's wisest policy to seek a close alliance with Sweden in their common interests, and after the conclusion of the "Kalmar War" the two countries did remain at peace for the next thirty-one years. But the antagonistic interests of the two countries in Germany during the Thirty Years' War precipitated a fourth contest between them (1643-45), in which Denmark would have been utterly ruined but for the heroism of King Christian IV. and his command of the sea during the crisis of the struggle. Even so, by the peace of Brmsebro (February 8, 1645) Denmark surrendered the islands of Oesel and Gotland and the provinces of Jemteland and Herjedal (in Norway) definitively, and Halland for thirty years. The freedom from the Sound tolls was by the same treaty also extended to Sweden's Baltic provinces.
Frederick III., 1648-1670.
Peace of Roskilde, 1658.
Treaty of Copenhagen, 1660.
The peace of Brmsebro was the first of the long series of treaties, extending down to our own days, which mark the progressive shrinkage of Danish territory into an irreducible minimum. Sweden's appropriation of Danish soil had begun, and at the same time Denmark's power of resisting the encroachments of Sweden was correspondingly reduced. The Danish national debt, too, had risen enormously, while the sources of future income and consequent recuperation had diminished or disappeared. The Sound tolls, for instance, in consequence of the treaties of Brmsebro and Kristianopel (by the latter treaty very considerable concessions were made to the Dutch) had sunk from 400,000 to 140,000 rix-dollars. The political influence of the crown, moreover, had inevitably been weakened, and the conduct of foreign affairs passed from the hands of the king into the hands of the Rigsraad. On the accession of Frederick III. (1648-1670) moreover, the already diminished royal prerogative was still further curtailed by the Haandfaestning, or charter, which he was compelled to sign. Fear and hatred of Sweden, and the never abandoned hope of recovering the lost provinces, animated king and people alike; but it was Denmark's crowning misfortune that she possessed at this difficult crisis no statesman of the first rank, no one even approximately comparable with such competitors as Charles X. of Sweden or the "Great Elector" Frederick William of Brandenburg. From the very beginning of his reign Frederick III. was resolved upon a rupture at the first convenient opportunity, while the nation was, if possible, even more bellicose than the king. The apparently insuperable difficulties of Sweden in Poland was the feather that turned the scale; on the 1st of June 1657, Frederick III. signed the manifesto justifying a war which was never formally declared and brought Denmark to the very verge of ruin. The extraordinary details of this dramatic struggle will be found elsewhere (see FREDERICK III., king of Denmark, and CHARLES X., king of Sweden); suffice it to say that by the peace of Roskilde (February 26, 1658), Denmark consented to cede the three Scanian provinces, the island of Bornholm and the Norwegian provinces of Baahus and Trondhjem; to renounce all anti-Swedish alliances and to exempt all Swedish vessels, even when carrying foreign goods, from all tolls. These terrible losses were somewhat retrieved by the subsequent treaty of Copenhagen (May 27, 1660) concluded by the Swedish regency with Frederick III. after the failure of Charles X.'s second war against Denmark, a failure chiefly owing to the heroic defence of the Danish capital (1658-60). By this treaty Sweden gave back the province of Trondhjem and the isle of Bornholm and released Denmark from the most onerous of the obligations of the treaty of Roskilde. In fact the peace of Copenhagen came as a welcome break in an interminable series of disasters and humiliations. Anyhow, it confirmed the independence of the Danish state. On the other hand, if Denmark had emerged from the war with her honour and dignity unimpaired, she had at the same time tacitly surrendered the dominion of the North to her Scandinavian rival.
Hereditary monarchy established, 1660.
But the war just terminated had important political consequences, which were to culminate in one of the most curious and interesting revolutions of modern history. In the first place, it marks the termination of the Adelsvaelde, or rule of the nobility. By their cowardice, incapacity, egotism and treachery during the crisis of the struggle, the Danish aristocracy had justly forfeited the respect of every other class of the community, and emerged from the war hopelessly discredited. On the other hand, Copenhagen, proudly conscious of her intrinsic importance and of her inestimable services to the country, whom she had saved from annihilation by her constancy, now openly claimed to have a voice in public affairs. Still higher had risen the influence of the crown. The courage and resource displayed by Frederick III. in the extremity of the national danger had won for "the least expansive of monarchs" an extraordinary popularity.
On the 10th of September 1660, the Rigsdag, which was to repair the ravages of the war and provide for the future, was opened with great ceremony in the Riddersaal of the castle of Copenhagen. The first bill laid before the Estates by the government was to impose an excise tax on the principal articles of consumption, together with subsidiary taxes on cattle, poultry, &c., in return for which the abolition of all the old direct taxes was promised. The nobility at first claimed exemption from taxation altogether, while the clergy and burgesses insisted upon an absolute equality of taxation. There were sharp encounters between the presidents of the contending orders, but the position of the Lower Estates was considerably prejudiced by the dissensions of its various sections. Thus the privileges of the bishops and of Copenhagen profoundly irritated the lower clergy and the unprivileged towns, and made a cordial understanding impossible, till Hans Svane, bishop of Copenhagen, and Hans Nansen the burgomaster, who now openly came forward as the leader of the reform movement, proposed that the privileges which divided the non-noble Estates should be abolished. In accordance with this proposal, the two Lower Estates, on the 16th of September, subscribed a memorandum addressed to the Rigsraad, declaring their willingness to renounce their privileges, provided the nobility did the same; which was tantamount to a declaration that the whole of the clergy and burgesses had made common cause against the nobility. The opposition so formed took the name of the "Conjoined Estates." The presentation of the memorial provoked an outburst of indignation. But the nobility soon perceived the necessity of complete surrender. On the 30th of September the First Estate abandoned its former standpoint and renounced its privileges, with one unimportant reservation.
The struggle now seemed to be ended, and the financial question having also been settled, the king, had he been so minded, might have dismissed the Estates. But the still more important question of reform was now raised. On the 17th of September the burgesses introduced a bill proposing a new constitution, which was to include local self-government in the towns, the abolition of serfdom, and the formation of a national army. It fell to the ground for want of adequate support; but another proposition, the fruit of secret discussion between the king and his confederates, which placed all fiefs under the control of the crown as regards taxation, and provided for selling and letting them to the highest bidder, was accepted by the Estate of burgesses. The significance of this ordinance lay in the fact that it shattered the privileged position of the nobility, by abolishing the exclusive right to the possession of fiefs. What happened next is not quite clear. Our sources fail us, and we are at the mercy of doubtful rumours and more or less unreliable anecdotes. We have a vision of intrigues, mysterious conferences, threats and bribery, dimly discernible through a shifting mirage of tradition.
The first glint of light is a letter, dated the 23rd of September, from Frederick III. to Svane and Nansen, authorizing them to communicate the arrangements already made to reliable men, and act quickly, as "if the others gain time they may possibly gain more." The first step was to make sure of the city train-bands: of the garrison of Copenhagen the king had no doubt. The headquarters of the conspirators was the bishop's palace near Vor Frue church, between which and the court messages were passing continually, and where the document to be adopted by the Conjoined Estates took its final shape. On the 8th of October the two burgomasters, Hans Nansen and Kristoffer Hansen, proposed that the realm of Denmark should be made over to the king as a hereditary kingdom, without prejudice to the privileges of the Estates; whereupon they proceeded to Brewer's Hall, and informed the Estate of burgesses there assembled of what had been done. A fiery oration from Nansen dissolved some feeble opposition; and simultaneously Bishop Svane carried the clergy along with him. The so-called "Instrument," now signed by the Lower Estates, offered the realm to the king and his house as a hereditary monarchy, by way of thank-offering mainly for his courageous deliverance of the kingdom during the war; and the Rigsraad and the nobility were urged to notify the resolution to the king, and desire him to maintain each Estate in its due privileges, and to give a written counter-assurance that the revolution now to be effected was for the sole benefit of the state. Events now moved forward rapidly. On the 10th of October a deputation from the clergy and burgesses proceeded to the Council House where the Rigsraad were deliberating, to demand an answer to their propositions. After a tumultuous scene, the aristocratic Raad rejected the "Instrument" altogether, whereupon the deputies of the commons proceeded to the palace and were graciously received by the king, who promised them an answer next day. The same afternoon the guards in the streets and on the ramparts were doubled; on the following morning the gates of the city were closed, powder and bullets were distributed among the city train-bands, who were bidden to be in readiness when the alarm bell called them, and cavalry was massed on the environs of the city. The same afternoon the king sent a message to the Rigsraad urging them to declare their views quickly, as he could no longer hold himself responsible for what might happen. After a feeble attempt at a compromise the Raad gave way. On the 13th of October it signed a declaration to the effect that it associated itself still with the Lower Estates in the making over of the kingdom, as a hereditary monarchy, to his majesty and his heirs male and female. The same day the king received the official communication of this declaration and the congratulation of the burgomasters. Thus the ancient constitution was transformed; and Denmark became a monarchy hereditary in Frederick III. and his posterity.
But although hereditary sovereignty had been introduced, the laws of the land had not been abolished. The monarch was specifically now a sovereign overlord, but he had not been absolved from his obligations towards his subjects. Hereditary sovereignty per se was not held to signify unlimited dominion, still less absolutism. On the contrary, the magnificent gift of the Danish nation to Frederick III. was made under express conditions. The "Instrument" drawn up by the Lower Estates implied the retention of all their rights; and the king, in accepting the gift of a hereditary crown, did not repudiate the implied inviolability of the privileges of the donors. Unfortunately everything had been left so vague, that it was an easy matter for ultra-royalists like Svane and Nansen to ignore the privileges of the Estates, and even the Estates themselves.
On the 14th of October a committee was summoned to the palace to organize the new government. The discussion turned mainly upon two points, (1) whether a new oath of homage should be taken to the king, and (2) what was to be done with the Haandfaestning or royal charter. The first point was speedily decided in the affirmative, and, as to the second, it was ultimately decided that the king should be released from his oath and the charter returned to him; but a rider was added suggesting that he should, at the same time, promulgate a Recess providing for his own and his people's welfare. Thus Frederick III. was not left absolutely his own master; for the provision regarding a Recess, or new constitution, showed plainly enough that such a constitution was expected, and, once granted, would of course have limited the royal power.
It now only remained to execute the resolutions of the committee. On the 17th of October the charter, which the king had sworn to observe twelve years before, was solemnly handed back to him at the palace, Frederick III. thereupon promising to rule as a Christian king to the satisfaction of all the Estates of the realm. On the following day the king, seated on the topmost step of a lofty tribune surmounted by a baldaquin, erected in the midst of the principal square of Copenhagen, received the public homage of his subjects of all ranks, in the presence of an immense concourse, on which occasion he again promised to rule "as a Christian hereditary king and gracious master," and, "as soon as possible, to prepare and set up" such a constitution as should secure to his subjects a Christian and indulgent sway. The ceremony concluded with a grand banquet at the palace. After dinner the queen and the clergy withdrew; but the king remained. An incident now occurred which made a strong impression on all present. With a brimming beaker in his hand, Frederick III. went up to Hans Nansen, drank with him and drew him aside. They communed together in a low voice for some time, till the burgomaster, succumbing to the influence of his potations, fumbled his way to his carriage with the assistance of some of his civic colleagues. Whether Nansen, intoxicated by wine and the royal favour, consented on this occasion to sacrifice the privileges of his order and his city, it is impossible to say; but it is significant that, from henceforth, we hear no more of the Recess which the more liberal of the leaders of the lower orders had hoped for when they released Frederick III. from the obligations of the charter.
Establishment of absolute rule.
We can follow pretty plainly the stages of the progress from a limited to an absolute monarchy. By an act dated the 10th of January 1661, entitled "Instrument, or pragmatic sanction," of the king's hereditary right to the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, it was declared that all the prerogatives of majesty, and "all regalia as an absolute sovereign lord," had been made over to the king. Yet, even after the issue of the "Instrument," there was nothing, strictly speaking, to prevent Frederick III. from voluntarily conceding to his subjects some share in the administration. Unfortunately the king was bent upon still further emphasizing the plenitude of his power. At Copenhagen his advisers were busy framing drafts of a Lex Regia Perpetua; and the one which finally won the royal favour was the famous Kongelov, or "King's Law."
This document was in every way unique. In the first place it is remarkable for its literary excellence. Compared with the barbarous macaronic jargon of the contemporary official language it shines forth as a masterpiece of pure, pithy and original Danish. Still more remarkable are the tone and tenor of this royal law. The Kongelov has the highly dubious honour of being the one written law in the civilized world which fearlessly carries out absolutism to the last consequences. The monarchy is declared to owe its origin to the surrender of the supreme authority by the Estates to the king. The maintenance of the indivisibility of the realm and of the Christian faith according to the Augsburg Confession, and the observance of the Kongelov itself, are now the sole obligations binding upon the king. The supreme spiritual authority also is now claimed; and it is expressly stated that it becomes none to crown him; the moment he ascends the throne, crown and sceptre belong to him of right. Moreover, par. 26 declares guilty of lse-majest whomsoever shall in any way usurp or infringe the king's absolute authority. In the following reign the ultra-royalists went further still. In their eyes the king was not merely autocratic, but sacrosanct. Thus before the anointing of Christian V. on the 7th of June 1671, a ceremony by way of symbolizing the new autocrat's humble submission to the Almighty, the officiating bishop of Zealand delivered an oration in which he declared that the king was God's immediate creation, His vicegerent on earth, and that it was the bounden duty of all good subjects to serve and honour the celestial majesty as represented by the king's terrestrial majesty. The Kongelov is dated and subscribed the 14th of November 1665, but was kept a profound secret, only two initiated persons knowing of its existence until after the death of Frederick III., one of them being Kristoffer Gabel, the king's chief intermediary during the revolution, and the other the author and custodian of the Kongelov, Secretary Peder Schumacher, better known as Griffenfeldt. It is significant that both these confidential agents were plebeians.
Effects of the revolution of 1660.
The revolution of 1660 was certainly beneficial to Norway. With the disappearance of the Rigsraad, which, as representing the Danish crown, had hitherto exercised sovereignty over both kingdoms, Norway ceased to be a subject principality. The sovereign hereditary king stood in exactly the same relations to both kingdoms; and thus, constitutionally, Norway was placed on an equality with Denmark, united with but not subordinate to it. It is clear that the majority of the Norwegian people hoped that the revolution would give them an administration independent of the Danish government; but these expectations were not realised. Till the cessation of the Union in 1814, Copenhagen continued to be the headquarters of the Norwegian administration; both kingdoms had common departments of state; and the common chancery continued to be called the Danish chancery. On the other hand the condition of Norway was now greatly improved. In January 1661 a land commission was appointed to investigate the financial and economical conditions of the kingdoms; the fiefs were transformed into counties; the nobles were deprived of their immunity from taxation; and in July 1662 the Norwegian towns received special privileges, including the monopoly of the lucrative timber trade.
Christian V., 1670-1699.
The Enevaelde, or absolute monarchy, also distinctly benefited the whole Danish state by materially increasing its reserve of native talent. Its immediate consequence was to throw open every state appointment to the middle classes; and the middle classes of that period, with very few exceptions, monopolized the intellect and the energy of the nation. New blood of the best quality nourished and stimulated the whole body politic. Expansion and progress were the watchwords at home, and abroad it seemed as if Denmark were about to regain her former position as a great power. This was especially the case during the brief but brilliant administration of Chancellor Griffenfeldt. Then, if ever, Denmark had the chance of playing once more a leading part in international politics. But Griffenfeldt's difficulties, always serious, were increased by the instability of the European situation, depending as it did on the ambition of Louis XIV. Resolved to conquer the Netherlands, the French king proceeded, first of all, to isolate her by dissolving the Triple Alliance. (See SWEDEN and GRIFFENFELDT.) In April 1672 a treaty was concluded between France and Sweden, on condition that France should not include Denmark in her system of alliances without the consent of Sweden. This treaty showed that Sweden weighed more in the French balances than Denmark. In June 1672 a French army invaded the Netherlands; whereupon the elector of Brandenburg contracted an alliance with the emperor Leopold, to which Denmark was invited to accede; almost simultaneously the States-General began to negotiate for a renewal of the recently expired Dano-Dutch alliance.
Denmark in the Great Northern War.
In these circumstances it was as difficult for Denmark to remain neutral as it was dangerous for her to make a choice. An alliance with France would subordinate her to Sweden; an alliance with the Netherlands would expose her to an attack from Sweden. The Franco-Swedish alliance left Griffenfeldt no choice but to accede to the opposite league, for he saw at once that the ruin of the Netherlands would disturb the balance of power in the north by giving an undue preponderance to England and Sweden. But Denmark's experience of Dutch promises in the past was not reassuring; so, while negotiating at the Hague for a renewal of the Dutch alliance, he at the same time felt his way at Stockholm towards a commercial treaty with Sweden. His Swedish mission proved abortive, but, as he had anticipated, it effectually accelerated the negotiations at the Hague, and frightened the Dutch into unwonted liberality. In May 1673 a treaty of alliance was signed by the ambassador of the States-General at Copenhagen, whereby the Netherlands pledged themselves to pay Denmark large subsidies in return for the services of 10,000 men and twenty warships, which were to be held in readiness in case the United Provinces were attacked by another enemy besides France. Thus, very dexterously, Griffenfeldt had succeeded in gaining his subsidies without sacrificing his neutrality.
His next move was to attempt to detach Sweden from France; but, Sweden showing not the slightest inclination for a rapprochement, Denmark was compelled to accede to the anti-French league, which she did by the treaty of Copenhagen, of January 1674, thereby engaging to place an army of 20,000 in the field when required; but here again Griffenfeldt safeguarded himself to some extent by stipulating that this provision was not to be operative till the allies were attacked by a fresh enemy. When, in December 1674, a Swedish army invaded Prussian Pomerania, Denmark was bound to intervene as a belligerent, but Griffenfeldt endeavoured to postpone this intervention as long as possible; and Sweden's anxiety to avoid hostilities with her southern neighbour materially assisted him to postpone the evil day. He only wanted to gain time, and he gained it. To the last he endeavoured to avoid a rupture with France even if he broke with Sweden; but he could not restrain for ever the foolish impetuosity of his own sovereign, Christian V., and his fall in the beginning of 1676 not only, as he had foreseen, involved Denmark in an unprofitable war, but, as his friend and disciple, Jens Juel, well observed, relegated her henceforth to the humiliating position of an international catspaw. Thus at the peace of Fontainebleau (September 2, 1679) Denmark, which had borne the brunt of the struggle in the Baltic, was compelled by the inexorable French king to make full restitution to Sweden, the treaty between the two northern powers being signed at Lund on the 26th of September. Freely had she spent her blood and her treasure, only to emerge from the five years' contest exhausted and empty-handed.
By the peace of Fontainebleau Denmark had been sacrificed to the interests of France and Sweden; forty-one years later she was sacrificed to the interests of Hanover and Prussia by the peace of Copenhagen (1720), which ended the Northern War so far as the German powers were concerned. But it would not have terminated advantageously for them at all, had not the powerful and highly efficient Danish fleet effectually prevented the Swedish government from succouring its distressed German provinces, and finally swept the Swedish fleets out of the northern waters. Yet all the compensation Denmark received for her inestimable services during a whole decade was 600,000 rix-dollars! The bishoprics of Bremen and Verden, the province of Farther Pomerania and the isle of Rgen which her armies had actually conquered, and which had been guaranteed to her by a whole catena of treaties, went partly to the upstart electorate of Hanover and partly to the upstart kingdom of Prussia, both of which states had been of no political importance whatever at the beginning of the war of spoliation by which they were, ultimately, to profit so largely and so cheaply.
Frederick IV., 1699-1730.
The last ten years of the reign of Christian V.'s successor, Frederick IV. (1699-1730), were devoted to the nursing and development of the resources of the country, which had suffered only less severely than Sweden from the effects of the Great Northern War. The court, seriously pious, did much for education. A wise economy also contributed to reduce the national debt within manageable limits, and in the welfare of the peasantry Frederick IV. took a deep interest. In 1722 serfdom was abolished in the case of all peasants in the royal estates born after his accession.
Christian VI., 1730-1746.
The first act of Frederick's successor, Christian VI. (1730-1746), was to abolish the national militia, which had been an intolerable burden upon the peasantry; yet the more pressing agrarian difficulties were not thereby surmounted, as had been hoped. The price of corn continued to fall; the migration of the peasantry assumed alarming proportions; and at last, "to preserve the land" as well as to increase the defensive capacity of the country, the national militia was re-established by the decree of the 4th of February 1733, which at the same time bound to the soil all peasants between the age of nine and forty. Reactionary as the measure was it enabled the agricultural interest, on which the prosperity of Denmark mainly depended, to tide over one of the most dangerous crises in its history; but certainly the position of the Danish peasantry was never worse than during the reign of the religious and benevolent Christian VI.
Frederick V., 1746-1766.
Under the peaceful reign of Christian's son and successor, Frederick V. (1746-1766), still more was done for commerce, industry and agriculture. To promote Denmark's carrying trade, treaties were made with the Barbary States, Genoa and Naples; and the East Indian Trading Company flourished exceedingly. On the other hand the condition of the peasantry was even worse under Frederick V. than it had been under Christian VI., the Stavnsbaand, or regulation which bound all males to the soil, being made operative from the age of four. Yet signs of a coming amelioration were not wanting. The theory of the physiocrats now found powerful advocates in Denmark; and after 1755, when the press censorship was abolished so far as regarded political economy and agriculture, a thorough discussion of the whole agrarian question became possible. A commission appointed in 1757 worked zealously for the repeal of many agricultural abuses; and several great landed proprietors introduced hereditary leaseholds, and abolished the servile tenure.
Christian VII., 1766-1808.
Foreign affairs during the reigns of Frederick V. and Christian VI. were left in the capable hands of J. H. E. Bernstorff, who aimed at steering clear of all foreign complications and preserving inviolable the neutrality of Denmark. This he succeeded in doing, in spite of the Seven Years' War and of the difficulties attending the thorny Gottorp question in which Sweden and Russia were equally interested. The same policy was victoriously pursued by his nephew and pupil Andreas Bernstorff, an even greater man than the elder Bernstorff, who controlled the foreign policy of Denmark from 1773 to 1778, and again from 1784 till his death in 1797. The period of the younger Bernstorff synchronizes with the greater part of the long reign of Christian VII. (1766-1808), one of the most eventful periods of modern Danish history. The king himself was indeed a semi-idiot, scarce responsible for his actions, yet his was the era of such striking personalities as the brilliant charlatan Struensee, the great philanthropist and reformer C. D. F. Reventlow, the ultra-conservative Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, whose mission it was to repair the damage done by Struensee, and that generation of alert and progressive spirits which surrounded the young crown prince Frederick, whose first act, on taking his seat in the council of state, at the age of sixteen, on the 4th of April 1784, was to dismiss Guldberg.
A fresh and fruitful period of reform now began, lasting till nearly the end of the century, and interrupted only by the brief but costly war with Sweden in 1788. The emancipation of the peasantry was now the burning question of the day, and the whole matter was thoroughly ventilated. Bernstorff and the crown prince were the most zealous advocates of the peasantry in the council of state; but the honour of bringing the whole peasant question within the range of practical politics undoubtedly belongs to C. D. F. Reventlow (q.v.). Nor was the reforming principle limited to the abolition of serfdom. In 1788 the corn trade was declared free; the Jews received civil rights; and the negro slave trade was forbidden. In 1796 a special ordinance reformed the whole system of judicial procedure, making it cheaper and more expeditious; while the toll ordinance of the 1st of February 1797 still further extended the principle of free trade. Moreover, until two years after Bernstorff's death in 1797, the Danish press enjoyed a larger freedom of speech than the press of any other absolute monarchy in Europe, so much so that at last Denmark became suspected of favouring Jacobin views. But in September 1799 under strong pressure from the Russian emperor Paul, the Danish government forbade anonymity, and introduced a limited censorship.
Denmark and Great Britain in the Napoleonic Wars.
It was Denmark's obsequiousness to Russia which led to the first of her unfortunate collisions with Great Britain. In 1800 the Danish government was persuaded by the tsar to accede to the second Armed Neutrality League, which Russia had just concluded with Prussia and Sweden. Great Britain retaliated by laying an embargo on the vessels of the three neutral powers, and by sending a considerable fleet to the Baltic under the command of Parker and Nelson. Surprised and unprepared though they were, the Danes, nevertheless, on the 2nd of April 1801, offered a gallant resistance; but their fleet was destroyed, their capital bombarded, and, abandoned by Russia, they were compelled to submit to a disadvantageous peace.
The same vain endeavour of Denmark to preserve her neutrality led to the second breach with England. After the peace of Tilsit there could be no further question of neutrality. Napoleon had determined that if Great Britain refused to accept Russia's mediation, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal were to be forced to close their harbours to her ships and declare war against her. It was the intention of the Danish government to preserve its neutrality to the last, although, on the whole, it preferred an alliance with Great Britain to a league with Napoleon, and was even prepared for a breach with the French emperor if he pressed her too hardly. The army had therefore been assembled in Holstein, and the crown prince regent was with it. But the British government did not consider Denmark strong enough to resist France, and Canning had private trustworthy information of the designs of Napoleon, upon which he was bound to act. He sent accordingly a fleet, with 30,000 men on board, to the Sound to compel Denmark, by way of security for her future conduct, to unite her fleet with the British fleet. Denmark was offered an alliance, the complete restitution of her fleet after the war, a guarantee of all her possessions, compensation for all expenses, and even territorial aggrandizement.
Loss of Norway. Treaty of Kiel, 1814.
Dictatorially presented as they were, these terms were liberal and even generous; and if a great statesman like Bernstorff had been at the head of affairs in Copenhagen, he would, no doubt, have accepted them, even if with a wry face. But the prince regent, if a good patriot, was a poor politician, and invincibly obstinate. When, therefore, in August 1807, Gambier arrived in the Sound, and the English plenipotentiary Francis James Jackson, not perhaps the most tactful person that could have been chosen, hastened to Kiel to place the British demands before the crown prince, Frederick not only refused to negotiate, but ordered the Copenhagen authorities to put the city in the best state of defence possible. Taking this to be tantamount to a declaration of war, on the 16th of August the British army landed at Vedbck; and shortly afterwards the Danish capital was invested. Anything like an adequate defence was hopeless; a bombardment began which lasted from the 2nd of September till the 5th of September, and ended with the capitulation of the city and the surrender of the fleet intact, the prince regent having neglected to give orders for its destruction. After this Denmark, unwisely, but not unnaturally, threw herself into the arms of Napoleon and continued to be his faithful ally till the end of the war. She was punished for her obstinacy by being deprived of Norway, which she was compelled to surrender to Sweden by the terms of the treaty of Kiel (1814), on the 14th of January, receiving by way of compensation a sum of money and Swedish Pomerania, with Rgen, which were subsequently transferred to Prussia in exchange for the duchy of Lauenburg and 2,000,000 rix-dollars.
On the establishment of the German Confederation in 1815, Frederick VI. acceded thereto as duke of Holstein, but refused to allow Schleswig to enter it, on the ground that Schleswig was an integral part of the Danish realm.
Denmark after 1815.
Constitutional agitation. Beginnings of the Schleswig-Holstein Question.
Unionist Constitution of 1848, and war with Prussia.
The position of Denmark from 1815 to 1830 was one of great difficulty and distress. The loss of Norway necessitated considerable reductions of expenditure, but the economies actually practised fell far short of the requirements of the diminished kingdom and its depleted exchequer; while the agricultural depression induced by the enormous fall in the price of corn all over Europe caused fresh demands upon the state, and added 10,000,000 rix-dollars to the national debt before 1835. The last two years of the reign of Frederick VI. (1838-1839) were also remarkable for the revival of political life, provincial consultative assemblies being established for Jutland, the Islands, Schleswig and Holstein, by the ordinance of the 28th of May 1831. But these consultative assemblies were regarded as insufficient by the Danish Liberals, and during the last years of Frederick VI. and the whole reign of his successor, Christian VIII. (1839-1848), the agitation for a free constitution, both in Denmark and the duchies, continued to grow in strength, in spite of press prosecutions and other repressive measures. The rising national feeling in Germany also stimulated the separatist tendencies of the duchies; and "Schleswig-Holsteinism," as it now began to be called, evoked in Denmark the counter-movement known as Eiderdansk-politik, i.e. the policy of extending Denmark to the Eider and obliterating German Schleswig, in order to save Schleswig from being absorbed by Germany. This division of national sentiment within the monarchy, complicated by the approaching extinction of the Oldenburg line of the house of Denmark, by which, in the normal course under the Salic law, the succession to Holstein would have passed away from the Danish crown, opened up the whole complicated Schleswig-Holstein Question with all its momentous consequences. (See SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN QUESTION.) Within the monarchy itself, during the following years, "Schleswig-Holsteinism" and "Eiderdanism" faced each other as rival, mutually exacerbating forces; and the efforts of succeeding governments to solve the insoluble problem broke down ever on the rock of nationalist passion and the interests of the German powers. The unionist constitution, devised by Christian VIII., and promulgated by his successor, Frederick VII. (1848-1863), on the 28th of January 1848, led to the armed intervention of Prussia, at the instance of the new German parliament at Frankfort; and, though with the help of Russian and British diplomacy, the Danes were ultimately successful, they had to submit, in 1851, to the government of Holstein by an international commission consisting of three members, Prussian, Austrian and Danish respectively.
Denmark, meanwhile, had been engaged in providing herself with a parliament on modern lines. The constitutional rescript of the 28th of January 1848 had been withdrawn in favour of an electoral law for a national assembly, of whose 152 members 38 were to be nominated by the king and to form an Upper House (Landsting), while the remainder were to be elected by the people and to form a popular chamber (Folketing). The Bondevenlige, or philo-peasant party, which objected to the king's right of nomination and preferred a one-chamber system, now separated from the National Liberals on this point. But the National Liberals triumphed at the general election; fear of reactionary tendencies finally induced the Radicals to accede to the wishes of the majority; and on the 5th of June 1849 the new constitution received the royal sanction.
Germany and the Danish duchies.
Convention of 1852.
At this stage Denmark's foreign relations prejudicially affected her domestic politics. The Liberal Eiderdansk party was for dividing Schleswig into three distinct administrative belts, according as the various nationalities predominated (language rescripts of 1851), but German sentiment was opposed to any such settlement and, still worse, the great continental powers looked askance on the new Danish constitution as far too democratic. The substance of the notes embodying the exchange of views, in 1851 and 1852, between the German great powers and Denmark, was promulgated, on the 28th of January 1852, in the new constitutional decree which, together with the documents on which it was founded, was known as the Conventions of 1851 and 1852. Under this arrangement each part of the monarchy was to have local autonomy, with a common constitution for common affairs. Holstein was now restored to Denmark, and Prussia and Austria consented to take part in the conference of London, by which the integrity of Denmark was upheld, and the succession to the whole monarchy settled on Prince Christian, youngest son of Duke William of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glcksburg, and husband of Louise of Hesse, the niece of King Christian VIII. The "legitimate" heir to the duchies, under the Salic law, Duke Christian of Sonderburg-Augustenburg, accepted the decision of the London conference in consideration of the purchase by the Danish government of his estates in Schleswig.
Constitution of 1855.
Constitution of 1863 and accession of Christian IX.
Prusso-Danish War of 1864, and cession of the duchies.
On the 2nd of October 1855 was promulgated the new common constitution, which for two years had been the occasion of a fierce contention between the Conservatives and the Radicals. It proved no more final than its predecessors. The representatives of the duchies in the new common Rigsraad protested against it, as subversive of the Conventions of 1851 and 1852; and their attitude had the support of the German powers. In 1857, Carl Christian Hall (q.v.) became prime minister. After putting off the German powers by seven years of astute diplomacy, he realized the impossibility of carrying out the idea of a common constitution and, on the 30th of March 1862, a royal proclamation was issued detaching Holstein as far as possible from the common monarchy. Later in the year he introduced into the Rigsraad a common constitution for Denmark and Schleswig, which was carried through and confirmed by the council of state on the 13th of November 1863. It had not, however, received the royal assent when the death of Frederick VII. brought the "Protocol King" Christian IX. to the throne. Placed between the necessity of offending his new subjects or embroiling himself with the German powers, Christian chose the remoter evil and, on the 18th of November, the new constitution became law. This once more opened up the whole question in an acute form. Frederick, son of Christian of Augustenburg, refusing to be bound by his father's engagements, entered Holstein and, supported by the Estates and the German diet, proclaimed himself duke. The events that followed: the occupation of the duchies by Austria and Prussia, the war of 1864, gallantly fought by the Danes against overwhelming odds, and the astute diplomacy by which Bismarck succeeded in ultimately gaining for Prussia the seaboard so essential for her maritime power, are dealt with elsewhere (see SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN QUESTION). For Denmark the question was settled when, by the peace of Vienna (October 30, 1864), the duchies were irretrievably lost to her. At the peace of Prague, which terminated the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Napoleon III. procured the insertion in the treaty of paragraph v., by which the northern districts of Schleswig were to be reunited to Denmark when the majority of the population by a free vote should so desire; but when Prussia at last thought fit to negotiate with Denmark on the subject, she laid down conditions which the Danish government could not accept. Finally, in 1878, by a separate agreement between Austria and Prussia, paragraph v. was rescinded.
Constitutional struggles in Denmark since 1866.
The salient feature of Danish politics during subsequent years was the struggle between the two Tings, the Folketing or Lower House, and the Landsting, or Upper House of the Rigsdag. This contest began in 1872, when a combination of all the Radical parties, known as the "United Left," passed a vote of want of confidence against the government and rejected the budget. Nevertheless, the ministry, supported by the Landsting, refused to resign; and the crisis became acute when, in 1875, J. B. Estrup became prime minister. Perceiving that the coming struggle would be essentially a financial one, he retained the ministry of finance in his own hands; and, strong in the support of the king, the Landsting, and a considerable minority in the country itself, he devoted himself to the double task of establishing the political parity of the Landsting with the Folketing and strengthening the national armaments, so that, in the event of a war between the European great powers, Denmark might be able to defend her neutrality.
The Left was willing to vote 30,000,000 crowns for extraordinary military expenses, exclusive of the fortifications of Copenhagen, on condition that the amount should be raised by a property and income tax; and, as the elections of 1875 had given them a majority of three-fourths in the popular chamber, they spoke with no uncertain voice. But the Upper House steadily supported Estrup, who was disinclined to accept any such compromise. As an agreement between the two houses on the budget proved impossible, a provisional financial decree was issued on the 12th of April 1877, which the Left stigmatized as a breach of the constitution. But the difficulties of the ministry were somewhat relieved by a split in the Radical party, still further accentuated by the elections of 1879, which enabled Estrup to carry through the army and navy defence bill and the new military penal code by leaning alternately upon one or the other of the divided Radical groups.
After the elections of 1881, which brought about the reamalgamation of the various Radical sections, the opposition presented a united front to the government, so that, from 1882 onwards, legislation was almost at a standstill. The elections of 1884 showed clearly that the nation was also now on the side of the Radicals, 83 out of the 102 members of the Folketing belonging to the opposition. Still Estrup remained at his post. He had underestimated the force of public opinion, but he was conscientiously convinced that a Conservative ministry was necessary to Denmark at this crisis. When therefore the Rigsdag rejected the budget, he advised the king to issue another provisional financial decree. Henceforth, so long as the Folketing refused to vote supplies, the ministry regularly adopted these makeshifts. In 1886 the Left, having no constitutional means of dismissing the Estrup ministry, resorted for the first time to negotiations; but it was not till the 1st of April 1894 that the majority of the Folketing could arrive at an agreement with the government and the Landsting as to a budget which should be retrospective and sanction the employment of the funds so irregularly obtained for military expenditure. The whole question of the provisional financial decrees was ultimately regularized by a special resolution of the Rigsdag; and the retirement of the Estrup ministry in August 1894 was the immediate result of the compromise.
In spite of the composition of 1894, the animosity between Folketing and Landsting continues to characterize Danish politics, and the situation has been complicated by the division of both Right and Left into widely divergent groups. The elections of 1895 resulted in an undeniable victory of the extreme Radicals; and the budget of 1895-1896 was passed only at the last moment by a compromise. The session of 1896-1897 was remarkable for a rapprochement between the ministry and the "Left Reform Party," caused by the secessions of the "Young Right," which led to an unprecedented event in Danish politics—the voting of the budget by the Radical Folketing and its rejection by the Conservative Landsting in May 1897; whereupon the ministry resigned in favour of the moderate Conservative Hrring cabinet, which induced the Upper House to pass the budget. The elections of 1898 were a fresh defeat for the Conservatives, and in the autumn session of the same year, the Folketing, by a crushing majority of 85 to 12, rejected the military budget. The ministry was saved by a mere accident—the expulsion of Danish agitators from North Schleswig by the German government, which evoked a passion of patriotic protest throughout Denmark, and united all parties, the war minister declaring in the Folketing, during the debate on the military budget (January 1899), that the armaments of Denmark were so far advanced that any great power must think twice before venturing to attack her. The chief event of the year 1899 was the great strike of 40,000 artisans, which cost Denmark 50,000,000 crowns, and brought about a reconstruction of the cabinet in order to bring in, as minister of the interior, Ludwig Ernest Bramsen, the great specialist in industrial matters, who succeeded (September 2-4) in bringing about an understanding between workmen and employers. The session 1900-1901 was remarkable for the further disintegration of the Conservative party still in office (the Sehested cabinet superseded the Hrring cabinet on the 27th of April 1900) and the almost total paralysis of parliament, caused by the interminable debates on the question of taxation reform. The crisis came in 1901. Deprived of nearly all its supporters in the Folketing, the Conservative ministry resigned, and King Christian was obliged to assent to the formation of a "cabinet of the Left" under Professor Deuntzer. Various reforms were carried, but the proposal to sell the Danish islands in the West Indies to the United States fell through. During these years the relations between Denmark and the German empire improved, and in the country itself the cause of social democracy made great progress. In January 1906 King Christian ended his long reign, and was succeeded by his son Frederick VIII. At the elections of 1906 the government lost its small absolute majority, but remained in power with support from the Moderates and Conservatives. It was severely shaken, however, when Herr A. Alberti, who had been minister of justice since 1901, and was admitted to be the strongest member of the cabinet, was openly accused of nepotism and abuse of the power of his position. These charges gathered weight until the minister was forced to resign in July 1908, and in September he was arrested on a charge of forgery in his capacity as director of the Zealand Peasants' Savings Bank. The ministry, of which Herr Jens Christian Christensen was head, was compelled to resign in October. The effect of these revelations was profound not only politically, but also economically; the important export trade in Danish butter, especially, was adversely affected, as Herr Alberti had been interested in numerous dairy companies.
BIBLIOGRAPHY.—I. GENERAL HISTORY. Danmarks Riges Historie (Copenhagen, 1897-1905); R. Nisbet Bain, Scandinavia (Cambridge, 1905); H. Weitemeyer, Denmark (London, 1901); Adolf Ditley Jrgensen, Historiske Afhandlinger (Copenhagen, 1898); ib. Fortaellinger af Nordens Historie (Copenhagen, 1892). II. EARLY AND MEDIEVAL HISTORY. Saxo, Gesta Danorum (Strassburg, 1886); Repertorium diplomaticum regni Danici mediaevalis (Copenhagen, 1894); Ludvig Holberg, Konge og Danehof (Copenhagen, 1895); Poul Frederik Barford, Danmarks Historie 1319-1536 (Copenhagen, 1885); ib. 1536-1670 (Copenhagen, 1891). III. 16TH TO 19TH CENTURY. Philip P. Munch, Kobstadstyrelsen i Danmark (Copenhagen, 1900); Peter Edvard Holm, Danmark Norges indre Historie, 1660-1720 (Copenhagen, 1885-1886); ib. Danmark Norges Historie, 1720-1814 (Copenhagen, 1891-1894); Sren Bloch Thrige, Danmarks Historie i vort Aarhundrede (Copenhagen, 1888); Marcus Rubin, Frederick VI.'s Tid fra Kielerfreden (Copenhagen, 1895); Christian Frederick von Holten, Erinnerungen; Der deutsch-dnische Krieg (Stuttgart, 1900); Niels Peter Jensen, Den anden slesvigske Krig (Copenhagen, 1900); S. N. Mouritsen, Vor Forfatnings Historie (Copenhagen, 1894); Carl Frederik Vilhelm Mathildus Rosenberg, Danmark i Aaret 1848 (Copenhagen, 1891). See also the special bibliographies appended to the biographies of the Danish kings and statesmen. (R. N. B.)
The present language of Denmark is derived directly from the same source as that of Sweden, and the parent of both is the old Scandinavian (see SCANDINAVIAN LANGUAGES). In Iceland this tongue, with some modifications, has remained in use, and until about 1100 it was the literary language of the whole of Scandinavia. The influence of Low German first, and High German afterwards, has had the effect of drawing modern Danish constantly farther from this early type. The difference began to show itself in the 12th century. R. K. Rask, and after him N. M. Petersen, have distinguished four periods in the development of the language, The first, which has been called Oldest Danish, dating from about 1100 and 1250, shows a slightly changed character, mainly depending on the system of inflections. In the second period, that of Old Danish, bringing us down to 1400, the change of the system of vowels begins to be settled, and masculine and feminine are mingled in a common gender. An indefinite article has been formed, and in the conjugation of the verb a great simplicity sets in. In the third period, 1400-1530, the influence of German upon the language is supreme, and culminates in the Reformation. The fourth period, from 1530 to about 1680, completes the work of development, and leaves the language as we at present find it.
The earliest work known to have been written in Denmark was a Latin biography of Knud the Saint, written by an English monk lnoth, who was attached to the church of St Alban in Odense where King Knud was murdered. Denmark produced several Latin writers of merit. Anders Sunesen (d. 1228) wrote a long poem in hexameters, Hexameron, describing the creation. Under the auspices of Archbishop Absalon the monks of Sor began to compile the annals of Denmark, and at the end of the 12th century Svend Aagesen, a cleric of Lund, compiled from Icelandic sources and oral tradition his Compendiosa historia regum Daniae. The great Saxo Grammaticus (q.v.) wrote his Historia Danica under the same patronage.
It was not till the 16th century that literature began to be generally practised in the vernacular in Denmark. The oldest laws which are still preserved date from the beginning of the 13th century, and many different collections are in existence. A single work detains us in the 13th century, a treatise on medicine by Henrik Harpestreng, who died in 1244. The first royal edict written in Danish is dated 1386; and the Act of Union at Kalmar, written in 1397, is the most important piece of the vernacular of the 14th century. Between 1300 and 1500, however, it is supposed that the Kjaempeviser, or Danish ballads, a large collection of about 500 epical and lyrical poems, were originally composed, and these form the most precious legacy of the Denmark of the middle ages, whether judged historically or poetically. We know nothing of the authors of these poems, which treat of the heroic adventures of the great warriors and lovely ladies of the chivalric age in strains of artless but often exquisite beauty. Some of the subjects are borrowed in altered form from the old mythology, while a few derive from Christian legend, and many deal with national history. The language in which we receive these ballads, however, is as late as the 16th or even the 17th century, but it is believed that they have become gradually modernized in the course of oral tradition. The first attempt to collect the ballads was made in 1591 by Anders Srensen Vedel (1542-1616), who published 100 of them. Peder Syv printed 100 more in 1695. In 1812-1814 an elaborate collection in five volumes appeared at Christiania, edited by W. H. F. Abrahamson, R. Nyerup and K. M. Rahbek. Finally, Svend Grundtvig produced an exhaustive edition, Danmarks gamle Folkeviser (Copenhagen, 1853-1883, 5 vols.), which was supplemented (1891) by A. Olrik.
In 1490, the first printing press was set up at Copenhagen, by Gottfried of Gemen, who had brought it from Westphalia; and five years later the first Danish book was printed. This was the famous Rimkrnike; a history of Denmark in rhymed Danish verse, attributed by its first editor to Niels (d. 1481); a monk of the monastery of Sor. It extends to the death of Christian I., in 1481, which may be supposed to be approximately the date of the poem. In 1479 the university of Copenhagen had been founded. In 1506 the same Gottfried of Gemen published a famous collection of proverbs, attributed to Peder Laale. Mikkel, priest of St Alban's Church in Odense, wrote three sacred poems, The Rose-Garland of Maiden Mary, The Creation and Human Life, which came out together in 1514, shortly before his death. The popular Lucidarius also appeared in the vulgar tongue.
These few productions appeared along with innumerable works in Latin, and dimly heralded a Danish literature. It was the Reformation that first awoke the living spirit in the popular tongue. Christiern Pedersen (q.v.; 1480-1554) was the first man of letters produced in Denmark. He edited and published, at Paris in 1514, the Latin text of the old chronicler, Saxo Grammaticus; he worked up in their present form the beautiful half-mythical stories of Karl Magnus (Charlemagne) and Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane). He further translated the Psalms of David and the New Testament, printed in 1529, and finally—in conjunction with Bishop Peder Palladius—the Bible, which appeared in 1550. Hans Tausen, the bishop of Ribe (1494-1561), continued Pedersen's work, but with far less literary talent. He may, however, be considered as the greatest orator and teacher of the Reformation movement. He wrote a number of popular hymns, partly original, partly translations; translated the Pentateuch from the Hebrew; and published (1536) a collection of sermons embodying the reformed doctrine and destined for the use of clergy and laity.
The Catholic party produced one controversialist of striking ability, Povel Helgesen (b. c. 1480), also known as Paulus Eliae. He had at first been inclined to the party of reform, but when Luther broke definitely with the papal authority he became a bitter opponent. His most important polemical work is an answer (1528) to twelve questions on the religious question propounded by Gustavus I. of Sweden. He is also supposed to be the author of the Skiby Chronicle, in which he does not confine himself to the duties of a mere annalist, but records his personal opinion of people and events. Vedel, by the edition of the Kjaempeviser which is mentioned above, gave an immense stimulus to the progress of literature. He published an excellent translation of Saxo Grammaticus in 1575. The first edition of a Danish Reineke Fuchs, by Herman Weigere, appeared at Lbeck in 1555, and the first authorized Psalter in 1559. Arild Huitfeld wrote Chronicle of the Kingdom of Denmark, printed in ten volumes, between 1595 and 1604.
There are few traces of dramatic effort in Denmark before the Reformation; and many of the plays of that period may be referred to the class of school comedies. Hans Sthen, a lyrical poet, wrote a morality entitled Kortvending ("Change of Fortune"), which is really a collection of monologues to be delivered by students. The anonymous Ludus de Sancto Kanuto (c. 1530) which in spite of its title, is written in Danish, is the earliest Danish national drama. The burlesque drama assigned to Christian Hansen, The Faithless Wife, is the only one of its kind that has survived. But the best of these old dramatic authors was a priest of Viborg, Justesen Ranch (1539-1607), who wrote Kong Salomons Hylding ("The Crowning of King Solomon") (1585), Samsons Faengsel ("The Imprisonment of Samson"), which includes lyrical passages which have given it claims to be considered the first Danish opera, and a farce, Karrig Niding ("The Miserly Miscreant"). Beside these works Ranch wrote a famous moralizing poem, entitled "A new song, of the nature and song of certain birds, in which many vices are punished, and many virtues praised." Peder Clausen (1545-1614), a Norwegian by birth and education, wrote a Description of Norway, as well as an admirable translation of Snorri Sturlason's Heimskringla, published ten years after Clausen's death. The father of Danish poetry, Anders Kristensen Arrebo (1587-1637), was bishop of Trondhjem, but was deprived of his see for immorality. He was a poet of considerable genius, which is most brilliantly shown in an imitation of Du Bartas's Divine Semaine, the Hexameron, a poem on the creation, in six books, which did not appear till 1661. He also made a translation of the Psalms.
He was followed by Anders Bording (1619-1677), a cheerful occasional versifier, and by Thger Reenberg (1656-1742), a poet of somewhat higher gifts, who lived on into a later age. Among prose writers should be mentioned the grammarian Peder Syv, (1631-1702); Bishop Erik Pontoppidan (1616-1678), whose Grammatica Danica, published in 1668, is the first systematic analysis of the language; Birgitta Thott (1610-1662), a lady who translated Seneca (1658); and Leonora Christina Ulfeld, daughter of Christian IV., who has left a touching account of her long imprisonment in her Jammersminde. Ole Worm (1588-1654), a learned pedagogue and antiquarian, preserved in his Danicorum monumentorum libri sex (Copenhagen, 1643) the descriptions of many antiquities which have since perished or been lost.
In two spiritual poets the advancement of the literature of Denmark took a further step. Thomas Kingo (1634-1703) was the first who wrote Danish with perfect ease and grace. He was a Scot by descent, and retained the vital energy of his ancestors as a birthright. In 1677 he became bishop in Fnen, where he died in 1703. His Winter Psalter (1689), and the so-called Kingo's Psalter (1699), contained brilliant examples of lyrical writing, and an employment of language at once original and national. Kingo had a charming fancy, a clear sense of form and great rapidity and variety of utterance. Some of his very best hymns are in the little volume he published in 1681, and hence the old period of semi-articulate Danish may be said to close with this eventful decade, which also witnessed the birth of Holberg. The other great hymn-writer was Hans Adolf Brorson (1694-1764), who published in 1740 a great psalm-book at the king's command, in which he added his own to the best of Kingo's. Both these men held high posts in the church, one being bishop of Fnen and the other of Ribe; but Brorson was much inferior to Kingo in genius. With these names the introductory period of Danish literature ends. The language was now formed, and was being employed for almost all the uses of science and philosophy.
Ludvig Holberg (q.v.; 1684-1754) may be called the founder of modern Danish literature. His various works still retain their freshness and vital attraction. As an historian his style was terse and brilliant, his spirit philosophical, and his data singularly accurate. He united two unusual gifts, being at the same time the most cultured man of his day, and also in the highest degree a practical person, who clearly perceived what would most rapidly educate and interest the uncultivated. In his thirty-three dramas, sparkling comedies in prose, more or less in imitation of Molire, he has left his most important positive legacy to literature. Nor in any series of comedies in existence is decency so rarely sacrificed to a desire for popularity or a false sense of wit.
Holberg founded no school of immediate imitators, but his stimulating influence was rapid and general. The university of Copenhagen, which had been destroyed by fire in 1728, was reopened in 1742, and under the auspices of the historian Hans Gram (1685-1748), who founded the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences, it inspired an active intellectual life. Gram laid the foundation of critical history in Denmark. He brought to bear on the subject a full knowledge of documents and sources. His best work lies in his annotated editions of the older chroniclers. In 1744 Jakob Langebek (1710-1775) founded the Society for the Improvement of the Danish Language, which opened the field of philology. He began the great collection of Scriptores rerum Danicarum medii aevi (9 vols., Copenhagen, 1772-1878). In jurisprudence Andreas Hier (1690-1739) represented the new impulse, and in zoology Erik Pontoppidan (q.v.), the younger. This last name represents a lifelong activity in many branches of literature. From Holberg's college of Sor, two learned professors, Jens Schelderup Sneedorff (1724-1764) and Jens Kraft (1720-1765), disseminated the seeds of a wider culture. All these men were aided by the generous and enlightened patronage of Frederick V. A little later on, the German poet Klopstock settled in Copenhagen, bringing with him the prestige of his great reputation, and he had a strong influence in Germanizing Denmark. He founded, however, the Society for the Fine Arts, and had it richly endowed. The first prize offered was won by Christian Braumann Tullin (1728-1765) for his beautiful poem of May-day. Tullin, a Norwegian by birth, represents the first accession of a study of external nature in Danish poetry; he was an ardent disciple of the English poet Thomson. Christian Falster (1690-1752) wrote satires of some merit, but most of his work is in Latin. The New Heroic Poems of Jrgen Sorterup are notable as imitations of the old folk-literature. Ambrosius Stub (1705-1758) was a lyrist of great sweetness, born before his due time, whose poems, not published till 1771, belong to a later age than their author.
The Lyrical Revival.—Between 1742 and 1749, that is to say, at the very climax of the personal activity of Holberg, several poets were born, who were destined to enrich the language with its first group of lyrical blossoms. Of these the two eldest, Wessel and Ewald, were men of extraordinary genius, and destined to fascinate the attention of posterity, not only by the brilliance of their productions, but by the suffering and brevity of their lives. Johannes Ewald (q.v.; 1743-1781) was not only the greatest Danish lyrist of the 18th century, but he had few rivals in the whole of Europe. As a dramatist, pure and simple, his bird-like instinct of song carried him too often into a sphere too exalted for the stage; but he has written nothing that is not stamped with the exquisite quality of distinction. Johan Herman Wessel (1742-1785) excited even greater hopes in his contemporaries, but left less that is immortal behind him. After the death of Holberg, the affectation of Gallicism had reappeared in Denmark; and the tragedies of Voltaire, with their stilted rhetoric, were the most popular dramas of the day. Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1816), a young writer who did better things later on, gave the finishing touch to the exotic absurdity by bringing out a wretched piece called Zarina, which was hailed by the press as the first original Danish tragedy, although Ewald's exquisite Rolf Krage, which truly merited that title, had appeared two years before. Wessel, who up to that time had only been known as the president of a club of wits, immediately wrote Love without Stockings (1772), in which a plot of the most abject triviality is worked out in strict accordance with the rules of French tragedy, and in most pompous and pathetic Alexandrines. The effect of this piece was magical; the Royal Theatre ejected its cuckoo-brood of French plays, and even the Italian opera. It was now essential that every performance should be national, and in the Danish language. To supply the place of the opera, native musicians, and especially J. P. E. Hartmann, set the dramas of Ewald and others, and thus the Danish school of music originated. Johan Nordahl Brun's best work is to be found in his patriotic songs and his hymns. He became bishop of Bergen in 1803.
Of the other poets of the revival the most important were born in Norway. Nordahl Brun, Claus Frimann (1746-1829), Claus Fasting (1746-1791), who edited a brilliant aesthetic journal, The Critical Observer, Christian H. Pram (1756-1821), author of Staerkodder, a romantic epic, based on Scandinavian legend, and Edvard Storm (1749-1794), were associates and mainly fellow-students at Copenhagen, where they introduced a style peculiar to themselves, and distinct from that of the true Danes. Their lyrics celebrated the mountains and rivers of the magnificent country they had left; and, while introducing images and scenery unfamiliar to the inhabitants of monotonous Denmark, they enriched the language with new words and phrases. This group of writers is now claimed by the Norwegians as the founders of a Norwegian literature; but their true place is certainly among the Danes, to whom they primarily appealed. They added nothing to the development of the drama, except in the person of N. K. Bredal (1733-1778), who became director of the Royal Danish Theatre, and the writer of some mediocre plays.
To the same period belong a few prose writers of eminence. Werner Abrahamson (1744-1812) was the first aesthetic critic Denmark produced. Johan Clemens Tode (1736-1806) was eminent in many branches of science, but especially as a medical writer. Ove Mailing (1746-1829) was an untiring collector of historical data, which he annotated in a lively style. Two historians of more definite claim on our attention are Peter Frederik Suhm (1728-1798), whose History of Denmark (11 vols., Copenhagen, 1782-1812) contains a mass of original material, and Ove Guldberg (1731-1808). In theology Christian Bastholm (1740-1819) and Nicolai Edinger Balle (1744-1816), bishop of Zealand, a Norwegian by birth, demand a reference. But the only really great prose-writer of the period was the Norwegian, Niels Treschow (1751-1833), whose philosophical works are composed in an admirably lucid style, and are distinguished for their depth and originality.
The poetical revival sank in the next generation to a more mechanical level. The number of writers of some talent was very great, but genius was wanting. Two intimate friends, Jonas Rein (1760-1821) and Jens Zetlitz (1761-1821), attempted, with indifferent success, to continue the tradition of the Norwegian group. Thomas Thaarup (1749-1821) was a fluent and eloquent writer of occasional poems, and of homely dramatic idylls. The early death of Ole Samse (1759-1796) prevented the development of a dramatic talent that gave rare promise. But while poetry languished, prose, for the first time, began to flourish in Denmark. Knud Lyne Rahbek (1760-1830) was a pleasing novelist, a dramatist of some merit, a pathetic elegist, and a witty song-writer; he was also a man full of the literary instinct, and through a long life he never ceased to busy himself with editing the works of the older poets, and spreading among the people a knowledge of Danish literature through his magazine, Minerva, edited in conjunction with C. H. Pram. Peter Andreas Heiberg (1758-1841) was a political and aesthetic critic of note. He was exiled from Denmark in company with another sympathizer with the principles of the French Revolution, Malte Conrad Brunn (1775-1826), who settled in Paris, and attained a world-wide reputation as a geographer. O. C. Olufsen (1764-1827) was a writer on geography, zoology and political economy. Rasmus Nyerup (1759-1829) expended an immense energy in the compilation of admirable works on the history of language and literature. From 1778 to his death he exercised a great power in the statistical and critical departments of letters. The best historian of this period, however, was Engelstoft (1774-1850), and the most brilliant theologian Bishop Mynster (1775-1854). In the annals of modern science Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) is a name universally honoured. He explained his inventions and described his discoveries in language so lucid and so characteristic that he claims an honoured place in the literature of the country of whose culture, in other branches, he is one of the most distinguished ornaments.
On the threshold of the romantic movement occurs the name of Jens Baggesen (q.v.; 1764-1826), a man of great genius, whose work was entirely independent of the influences around him. Jens Baggesen is the greatest comic poet that Denmark has produced; and as a satirist and witty lyrist he has no rival among the Danes. In his hands the difficulties of the language disappear; he performs with the utmost ease extraordinary tours de force of style. His astonishing talents were wasted on trifling themes and in a fruitless resistance to the modern spirit in literature.
Romanticism.—With the beginning of the 19th century the new light in philosophy and poetry, which radiated from Germany through all parts of Europe, found its way into Denmark also. In scarcely any country was the result so rapid or so brilliant. There arose in Denmark a school of poets who created for themselves a reputation in all parts of Europe, and would have done honour to any nation or any age. The splendid cultivation of metrical art threw other branches into the shade; and the epoch of which we are about to speak is eminent above all for mastery over verse. The swallow who heralded the summer was a German by birth, Adolph Wilhelm Schack von Staffeldt (1769-1826), who came over to Copenhagen from Pomerania, and prepared the way for the new movement. Since Ewald no one had written Danish lyrical verse so exquisitely as Schack von Staffeldt, and the depth and scientific precision of his thought won him a title which he has preserved, of being the first philosophic poet of Denmark. The writings of this man are the deepest and most serious which Denmark had produced, and at his best he yields to no one in choice and skilful use of expression. This sweet song of Schack von Staffeldt's, however, was early silenced by the louder choir that one by one broke into music around him. It was Adam Gottlob hlenschlger (q.v.; 1779-1850), the greatest poet of Denmark, who was to bring about the new romantic movement. In 1802 he happened to meet the young Norwegian Henrik Steffens (1773-1845), who had just returned from a scientific tour in Germany, full of the doctrines of Schelling. Under the immediate direction of Steffens, hlenschlger began an entirely new poetic style, and destroyed all his earlier verses. A new epoch in the language began, and the rapidity and matchless facility of the new poetry was the wonder of Steffens himself. The old Scandinavian mythology lived in the hands of hlenschlger exactly as the classical Greek religion was born again in Keats. He aroused in his people the slumbering sense of their Scandinavian nationality.
The retirement of hlenschlger comparatively early in life, left the way open for the development of his younger contemporaries, among whom several had genius little inferior to his own. Steen Steensen Blicher (1782-1848) was a Jutlander, and preserved all through life the characteristics of his sterile and sombre fatherland. After a struggling youth of great poverty, he published, in 1807-1809, a translation of Ossian; in 1814 a volume of lyrical poems; and in 1817 he attracted considerable attention by his descriptive poem of The Tour in Jutland. His real genius, however, did not lie in the direction of verse; and his first signal success was with a story, A Village Sexton's Diary, in 1824, which was rapidly followed by other tales, descriptive of village life in Jutland, for the next twelve years. These were collected in five volumes (1833-1836). His masterpiece is a collection of short stories, called The Spinning Room. He also produced many national lyrics of great beauty. But it was Blicher's use of patois which delighted his countrymen with a sense of freshness and strength. They felt as though they heard Danish for the first time spoken in its fulness. The poet Aarestrup (in 1848) declared that Blicher had raised the Danish language to the dignity of Icelandic. Blicher is a stern realist, in many points akin to Crabbe, and takes a singular position among the romantic idealists of the period, being like them, however, in the love of precise and choice language, and hatred of the mere commonplaces of imaginative writing.
Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (q.v.; 1783-1872), like hlenschlger, learned the principles of the German romanticism from the lips of Steffens. He adopted the idea of introducing the Old Scandinavian element into art, and even into life, still more earnestly than the older poet. Bernhard Severin Ingemann (q.v.; 1789-1862) contributed to Danish literature historical romances in the style of Sir Walter Scott. Johannes Carsten Hauch (q.v.; 1790-1872) first distinguished himself as a disciple of hlenschlger, and fought under him in the strife against the old school and Baggesen. But the master misunderstood the disciple; and the harsh repulse of hlenschlger silenced Hauch for many years. He possessed, however, a strong and fluent genius, which eventually made itself heard in a multitude of volumes, poems, dramas and novels. All that Hauch wrote is marked by great qualities, and by distinction; he had a native bias towards the mystical, which, however, he learned to keep in abeyance.
Johan Ludvig Heiberg (q.v.; 1791-1860) was a critic who ruled the world of Danish taste for many years. His mother, the Baroness Gyllembourg-Ehrensvrd (q.v.; 1773-1856), wrote a large number of anonymous novels. Her knowledge of life, her sparkling wit and her almost faultless style, make these short stories masterpieces of their kind.
Christian Hviid Bredahl (1784-1860) produced six volumes of Dramatic Scenes (1819-1833) which, in spite of their many brilliant qualities, were little appreciated at the time. Bredahl gave up literature in despair to become a peasant farmer, and died in poverty.
Ludvig Adolf Bdtcher (1793-1874) wrote a single volume of lyrical poems, which he gradually enlarged in succeeding editions. He was a consummate artist in verse, and his impressions are given with the most delicate exactitude of phrase, and in a very fine strain of imagination. He was a quietist and an epicurean, and the closest parallel to Horner in the literature of the North. Most of Bdtcher's poems deal with Italian life, which he learned to know thoroughly during a long residence in Rome. He was secretary to Thorwaldsen for a considerable time.
Christian Winther (q.v.; 1796-1876) made the island of Zealand his loving study, and that province of Denmark belongs to him no less thoroughly than the Cumberland lakes belong to Wordsworth. Between the latter poet and Winther there was much resemblance. He was, without compeer, the greatest pastoral lyrist of Denmark. His exquisite strains, in which pure imagination is blended with most accurate and realistic descriptions of scenery and rural life, have an extraordinary charm not easily described.
The youngest of the great poets born during the last twenty years of the 18th century was Henrik Hertz (q.v.; 1797-1870). As a satirist and comic poet he followed Baggesen, and in all branches of the poetic art stood a little aside out of the main current of romanticism. He introduced into the Danish literature of his time inestimable elements of lucidity and purity. In his best pieces Hertz is the most modern and most cosmopolitan of the Danish writers of his time.
It is noticeable that all the great poets of the romantic period lived to an advanced age. Their prolonged literary activity—for some of them, like Grundtvig, were busy to the last—had a slightly damping influence on their younger contemporaries, but certain names in the next generation have special prominence. Hans Christian Andersen (q.v.; 1805-1875) was the greatest of modern fabulists. In 1835 there appeared the first collection of his Fairy Tales, and won him a world-wide reputation. Almost every year from this time forward until near his death he published about Christmas time one or two of these unique stories, so delicate in their humour and pathos, and so masterly in their simplicity. Carl Christian Bagger (1807-1846) published volumes in 1834 and 1836 which gave promise of a great future,—a promise broken by his early death. Frederik Paludan-Mller (q.v.; 1809-1876) developed, as a poet, a magnificent career, which contrasted in its abundance with his solitary and silent life as a man. His mythological or pastoral dramas, his great satiric epos of Adam Homo (1841-1848), his comedies, his lyrics, and above all his noble philosophic tragedy of Kalanus, prove the immense breadth of his compass, and the inexhaustible riches of his imagination. C. L. Emil Aarestrup (1800-1856) published in 1838 a volume of vivid erotic poetry, but its quality was only appreciated after his death. Edvard Lembcke (1815-1897) made himself famous as the admirable translator of Shakespeare, but the incidents of 1864 produced from him some volumes of direct and manly patriotic verse.