Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who's That Queer [Hans Christan Andersen ]

Brought to you by Pistol Pete

The son of a poor shoemaker and an illiterate laundry woman, Hans Christan Andersen was an ill-educated and eccentric boy who arrived penniless aged fourteen in Copenhagen, but managed to charm the wealthy locals into sponsoring his education and on his graduation from high school in 1828 published his first novel in 1829. In 1837, he began writing the fairy tales for which is now known and loved.

Andersen often fell in love with unattainable women and many of his stories are interpreted as references to his sexual grief. Just like his interest in women, Andersen would become attracted to nonreciprocating men. For example, Andersen wrote to Edvard Collin: "I languish for you as for a pretty wench... my sentiments for you are those of a woman. The femininity of my nature and our friendship must remain a mystery." Collin, who did not prefer men, wrote in his own memoir: "I found myself unable to respond to this love, and this caused the author much suffering."

In 1857, Andersen made the acquaintance of fellow Dane Harald Scharff, a handsome twenty-one-year-old ballet dancer. In July 1860, Andersen was in Bavaria where he was pleasantly surprised to meet Scharff again. They kept constant company, and it is probable that Andersen fell in love with Scharff at this time. According to his diary, Andersen did not "feel at all well" when the two young men left Munich on 9 July 1860. A liaison with a celebrated and distinguished man such as Andersen must have held some attraction for the young Scharff, and a correspondence between the two began.

Harald Schraff

Andersen determined to fully open his heart to Scharff. He sent the young dancer a photograph of himself in a languid and seductive pose with a salutation using the intimate “Du” form: "Dear Scharf, here you have again Hans Christian Andersen." The two men exchanged birthday gifts in the early months of 1861.

When Andersen returned to Copenhagen at the start of the new year 1862, Scharff was waiting for him. In his diary entry for 2 January 1862, Andersen noted that Scharff "bounded up to me; threw himself round my neck and kissed me!" In the winter of 1861–62, the two men entered a full-blown love affair that brought Andersen "joy, some kind of sexual fulfillment and a temporary end to loneliness."He was not discreet in his conduct with Scharff, and displayed his feelings much too openly. Onlookers regarded the relationship as improper and ridiculous. In his diary for March 1862, Andersen referred to this time in his life as his "erotic period."

The affair eventually came to an end. Scharff withdrew gradually from the relationship as he focused on his friendship with Eckardt, who had married the actress Josephine Thorberg. In late August 1863, Andersen was a dinner guest at the Eckhardts and sensed Scharff was no longer interested in him as an intimate friend. On 27 August 1863, the poet noted in his diary that Scharff’s passion had cooled and the dancer (whom he at one time described as a "butterfly who flits around sympathetically") wrote in his diary:
"Dinner at the Eckhardts. Scharff's infatuation with me has now passed, "now another object has captured the hero's eye." I'm not dejected about it, as I have been previously at similar disappointments."
In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of bed and was severely hurt. He never fully recovered, but he lived until August 4, 1875, dying of insidious causes near Copenhagen. At the time of his death, he was an internationally renowned and treasured artist. He received a stipend from the Danish Government as a "national treasure". Before his death, steps were already underway to erect the large statue in his honour, which was completed and is prominently placed at the town hall square in Copenhagen.

Sources: Gay for Today, Wikipedia

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