Hedda Gabler HTML version

From Munich, on June 29, 1890, Ibsen wrote to the Swedish poet, Count Carl
Soilsky: "Our intention has all along been to spend the summer in the Tyrol
again. But circumstances are against our doing so. I am at present engaged
upon a new dramatic work, which for several reasons has made very slow
progress, and I do not leave Munich until I can take with me the completed first
draft. There is little or no prospect of my being able to complete it in July." Ibsen
did not leave Munich at all that season. On October 30 he wrote: "At present I am
utterly engrossed in a new play. Not one leisure hour have I had for several
months." Three weeks later (November 20) he wrote to his French translator,
Count Prozor: "My new play is finished; the manuscript went off to Copenhagen
the day before yesterday. . . . It produces a curious feeling of emptiness to be
thus suddenly separated from a work which has occupied one's time and
thoughts for several months, to the exclusion of all else. But it is a good thing,
too, to have done with it. The constant intercourse with the fictitious personages
was beginning to make me quite nervous." To the same correspondent he wrote
on December 4: "The title of the play is Hedda Gabler. My intention in giving it
this name was to indicate that Hedda, as a personality, is to be regarded rather
as her father's daughter than as her husband's wife. It was not my desire to deal
in this play with so-called problems. What I principally wanted to do was to depict
human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon a groundwork of
certain of the social conditions and principles of the present day."
So far we read the history of the play in the official "Correspondence."(1) Some
interesting glimpses into the poet's moods during the period between the
completion of The Lady from the Sea and the publication of Hedda Gabler are to
be found in the series of letters to Fraulein Emilie Bardach, of Vienna, published
by Dr. George Brandes.(2) This young lady Ibsen met at Gossensass in the Tyrol
in the autumn of 1889. The record of their brief friendship belongs to the history
of The Master Builder rather than to that of Hedda Gabler, but the allusions to his
work in his letters to her during the winter of 1889 demand some examination.
So early as October 7, 1889, he writes to her: "A new poem begins to dawn in
me. I will execute it this winter, and try to transfer to it the bright atmosphere of
the summer. But I feel that it will end in sadness--such is my nature." Was this
"dawning" poem Hedda Gabler? Or was it rather The Master Builder that was
germinating in his mind? Who shall say? The latter hypothesis seems the more
probable, for it is hard to believe that at any stage in the incubation of Hedda
Gabler he can have conceived it as even beginning in gaiety. A week later,
however, he appears to have made up his mind that the time had not come for
the poetic utilisation of his recent experiences. He writes on October 15: "Here I
sit as usual at my writing-table. Now I would fain work, but am unable to. My