Three Comedies HTML version

BJÖRNSTJERNE BJÖRNSON--poet, dramatist, novelist, and politician, and the most
notable figure in contemporary Norwegian history-- was born, in December 1832, at
Kvikne in the north of Norway. His father was pastor at Kvikne, a remote village in the
Österdal district, some sixty miles south of Trondhjem; a lonely spot, whose atmosphere
and surroundings Björnson afterwards described in one of his short sketches ("Blakken").
The pastor's house lay so high up on the "fjeld" that corn would not grow on its meadows,
where the relentless northern winter seemed to begin so early and end so late. The
Österdal folk were a wild, turbulent lot in those days--so much so, that his predecessor
(who had never ventured into the church without his pistol in his pocket) had eventually
run away and flatly refused to return, with the result that the district was pastorless for
some years until the elder Björnson came to it.
It was in surroundings such as this, and with scarcely any playfellows, that Björnstjerne
Björnson spent the first six years of his life; and the sturdy independence of his nature
may have owed something to the unaccommodating life of his earliest days, just as the
poetical impulse that was so strong in his developed character probably had its
beginnings in the impressions of beauty he received in the years that immediately
followed. For, when he was six, a welcome change came. His father was transferred to
the tranquil pastorate of Naes, at the mouth of the Romsdal, one of the fairest spots in
Norway. Here Björnson spent the rest of his childhood, in surroundings of beauty and
peacefulness, going to school first at Molde and afterwards at Christiania, to pass on later
to the Christiania University where he graduated in 1852. As a boy, his earliest
biographer tells us, he was fully determined to be a poet--and, naturally, the foremost
poet of his time!--but, as years passed, he gained a soberer estimate of his possibilities. At
the University he was one of a group of kindred spirits with eager literary leanings, and it
did not take him long to gain a certain footing in the world of journalism. His work for
the first year or two was mainly in the domain of dramatic criticism, but the creative
instinct was growing in him. A youthful effort of his--a drama entitled Valborg--was
actually accepted for production at the Christiania theatre, and the author, according to
custom, was put on the "free list" at once. The experience he gained, however, by
assiduous attendance at the theatre so convinced him of the defects in his own bantling,
that he withdrew it before performance--a heroic act of self-criticism rare amongst young
His first serious literary efforts were some peasant tales, whose freshness and vividness
made an immediate and remarkable impression and practically ensured his future as a
writer, while their success inspired him with the desire to create a kind of peasant "saga."
He wrote of what he knew, and a delicate sense of style seemed inborn in him. The best
known of these tales are Synnöve Solbakken (1857) and Arne (1858). They were hailed
as giving a revelation of the Norwegian character, and the first- named was translated
into English as early as 1858. He was thus made known to (or, at any rate, accessible to)
English readers many years before Ibsen, though his renown was subsequently