I Climbed by Day the Stairs a Volume for a Loan, Wander’d to and fro a while and Ended in a Swoon…

By Senior Curator Ejnar Stig Askgaard

”The German Encyclopaedia, Der Gegenwart, is no where to be found; not at the Military Library, the Society of Readers or Hempels. Milo has it up for sale but not loan”, Henriette Hanck wrote from her home in Odense, May 6 1838 to her poet friend, H.C. Andersen. The reason for this aspiration was to be found in a letter from Andersen received a few weeks prior. The poet had been mentioned in Der Gegenwart, published in four volumes in Leipzig from 1838-41. Being mentioned in a German Encyclopaedia was breathtaking. It was Xavier Marmier’s essay about Andersen’s ”La vie d’un poète” from Revue de Paris, and H.C. Andersen was tremendously proud about being placed among such prominent persons. The title of the first booklet was: Aal – Andersen (alphabetical order in archaic Danish and a pun too, translator’s note) and the poet soon saw the symbolic and comical in this.

The intention is not to dwell on the fame, which thirty-three year old Andersen then enjoyed both at home and abroad, but to draw the walking map of Henriette Hanck on her quest for the Encyclopaedia in the streets of Odense in 1838.

Overgade no.10, Odense Klub and Military Library, 1840. Odense Bys Museer/H.C. Andersens Hus

Henriette Hanck was hoping to find it and had been looking at both the Military Library and the Society of Readers and later at booksellers Hempel and printer Johan Milo. H.C. Andersen’s friend was disabled and very frail.
Let us follow in the foot steps of Henriette Hanck who resided in Overgade no. 18 with her parents. Outside her front door she may have greeted wheat bread baker, Pedersen, who lived close to Skjolden (The Shield), and then headed towards the town centre. A few steps in that direction would have led her to Overgade no. 10 – a building which was later demolished in 1970 when the town planning took over. Before this it was housing Odense Klub – a club whose members chiefly were government officers or noblemen, and it was in those rooms one would find the outstanding Military Library.

Vestergade no. 12, Society of Readers. Odense Bys Museer/H.C. Andersens Hus

Der Gegenwart was, however, not a part of their collection and Henriette Hanck had to continue her walk to Vestergade no. 12. This building no longer exists but back then it let three rooms to the Society of Readers founded on January 30 the same year. The board consisted of Henriette’s father, schoolmaster J.H.T. Hanck – a very artistic man who made watercolour paintings of Odense and region - some of them of H.C. Andersen’s childhood home in Munkemøllestræde.

A down-hearted Henriette Hanck did not find the Encyclopaedia there either and went to Vestergade no. 25-27 – where chancellor Hempel had his bookshop, Rental Library and news paper business. This latter was of great ‘threat’ to Henriette’s maternal grandfather, Christian Iversen, founder of Funen’s Advertisement News and chief competitor to Hempel’s newspaper. When Christian Iversen died in 1827 his wife, Kirstine Marie carried on his work. She passed on the year later but the newspaper was still standing until 1867. Hempel’s property was located at the corner of Vestergade/Jernbanegade, where Fyens Stiftstidende (Funen’s Diocesan Tidings) – which later became the name of the newspaper - used to reside for several decades.
Der Gegenwart was still not to be found, and Henriette Hanck walked on to Vestergade no. 43, where bookseller and printer Johan Milo held a Rental Library.

Milo’s property, Vestergade no. 43, c.1865. Odense Bys Museer

Milo did indeed have the first part but only for sale and Henriette Hanck did not purchase it: buying a first few sheets of such a voluminous work, and not subscribing to the following booklets, was hardly lucrative. A crestfallen and exhausted Henriette had to walk back home. She did not find it worth her while to walk to Fyens Stifts Bibliothek, which had some 16,000 works in its building – most of them were, however, theological works. Let us walk Henriette Hanck home to Overgade, and stop by the Military Library. What were the libraries in Odense in 1838 actually like?

Det Adelige Jomfrukloster. Undated drawing by H.C. Andersen, Odense Bys Museer/H.C. Andersens Hus

First one must turn to the valuable Karen Brahe’s Library. Located at the Det Adelige Jomfrukloster (Home for unmarried daughters of the nobility). The very core of this library consisted of Anne Gøye’s (1609-81) book collection. Karen Brahe (1657-1736) herself enjoyed a distinguished collection of books. As the niece of Anne, Karen inherited the entire library and wished to maintain it for future users.
This library, and its 2,153 works, is still one of Denmark’s truly treasured libraries, and but for one work - a donation of Ingemann’s Valdemar Seir [1826] - mainly consisted of very rare, old and costly books and manuscripts dating back before 1736. Many are theological works others are about history, legal and financial matters as well as aesthetic and scientific subjects.
This valuable library was in a miserable condition in 1838; it was ruined, and the melancholic professor, E.Chr. Werlauff – chief librarian at The Royal Library – considered it lost to “those who ardently love books.” Needless to say, Karen Brahe’s Library was not open to the public in 1838[1].

Hardly as precious as that of Brahe’s Library – but never the less immensely copiously and rare – was, and still is, the library of Odense Cathedral School [2] – one of the most distinguished (Latin) school libraries in Denmark.
In 1802 the town’s old Latin school and gymnasium united their libraries. In 1838 the library was located on the ground floor and consisted of some 9,000 volumes and among these were a tremendously distinguished collection of Greek and Latin literature. Not to mention an outstanding book collection on theological, Oriental, historical and literary history topics. It also held a considerable amount of works about natural science, philosophy and education. The library had been neglecting to acquire fictional literature for dozens of years, though.
Unfortunately only open during the summer since the cold and humid wintertime made the books unfit for lending. However, the reading room was granted a stove two years later to aid the book’s condition and the library could then be used all year each Tuesday and Saturday. The library of Odense Cathedral School was a private one - only intended for the Latin school’s teachers, natural scientist promoters within the province and their ‘disciples’.

Funen’s Diocesan Library was accessible to the public and rather extensive. In 1838 it was located on the upper floor of the building. The library was founded by courtesy of Bishop Frederik Plum and his dean Tetens. It later became part of the University Library.
 It was at bishops Plums the fourteen year old H.C. Andersen entertained a crowd for two hours on September 2nd 1819, merely two days prior to Andersen’s departure to Copenhagen. One guest, Ottilie Christensen noted in her diary:
”… this surprise was very angenehm to me” Dean Tetens – a somewhat humourless person, both had the shoemaker’s son as a student and attended Andersen’s confirmation.
By January 1813 both bishop and dean took the initiative of creating a library aiming at: ”maintaining the scientific spirit and increasing the sum of knowledge for anybody in the province who loves science.” The library was not meant to be open for anyone; first and foremost it was created to promote the clergy’s interest in their occupation and science. The books mainly came from large private donations from private libraries – Plum donated approx. 2,500 volumes. In 1838 the amount of books came to around 19,000 volumes, and the library was open every Tuesday and Friday from 3 till 4 pm.
The Citizen’s library founded during the winter of 1835-36 was located at the same place. This library mainly consisted of books about religious, moral and scientific matters and shared the room with the newspaper’s (Diocesan Tidings) library, whose librarian had the ”kindness to carry out a loan” from their small and not very significant collection of books.

Citizen’s library, reading room, photo 1966, Odense Bys Museer

Now we stand in front of Overgade no.10 where Odense Klub had its rooms and where the Military Library was located. One of the great philologists, Carl Christian Rafn (1795-1864) was the architecht behind this library. This gifted person graduated from Odense Cathedral School in 1814, went to University – where he after merely 4 years became Master of Laws and took an officer exam. As a young Master of Laws and officer in the Light Dragoon Regiment at Funen he was thrilled about establishing a library for officerers in the Funen military.
The idea about such a library was derived from his impressions in the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon had indeed demonstrated military shrewdness which naturally did not depend upon physical strength and heavy weapons only but certainly also on mental ingenuity. Rafn rightfully thought the officers - via the study of military history and other edifying reading - would develop insight and thus increase their skills for the good of crown and country. He devoted his time to the Military Library - with particular interest to the warfare during Canute the Great and how that kingdoms then had been expanded.

C.C. Rafn donated about 2,500 books and maps to the library and this eager enterprise paid well off. Distinguished donations of books and money – King Frederik VI contributed generously – accrued to the library, which was established by Royal resolution February 1st 1818. Whilst the Military Library was being established yet another library – the Reading Society – was founded. Access would be given to the ”non-profit papers and public magasines” in the reading room by paying a yearly contingent as well as the right to loan newly acquied works and any other book the library held.
In 1838 the well-stocked Military Library had 8,500 books of which an eighth was belletristic (today simply fiction). The Reading Society had 40 members.

In Senior teacher, at the Cathedral School, Chr. H. Kalkar’s pompous statement from 1836 he explains the Military Library successive increase to be brought about by ”the books, maps etc. which His Majesty The King by now had donated. Kalkar also gave praise to founder, antiquarian and Colonel Høegh-Guldberg and his service at the library”. Do pay attention to this man of honour who has just moved from Odense to Næstved when he in 1834 became chief in commander to the lancers in Zealand.

General C. Høegh-Guldberg and wife, 1860, Odense Bys Museer/H.C. Andersens Hus

Christian Høegh-Guldberg was the son of the renowned Ove Høegh-Guldberg who, via his meticulous theological and historical studies, had earned himself a solid reputation as scholar and writer and through the latter had become the mentor for young heir presumptive Frederik – the later Frederik VI.
Via his position as counsellor to queen-dowager Juliane Marie and the heir presumptive, he eagerly took part in the conspiracy against Struensee and later enjoyed the dubious title as Prime Minister of Denmark for a mere eight days - from April 6 1784 to the change of government April 14. Prior to his downfall he managed to get his five year-old son, Christian appointed as second lieutenant à la suite in the Royal Life Guards. ”À la suite” is military jargon and means: “At present not in Service”.

Christian Høegh-Guldberg had a great military career. He was first lieutenant with the Dragoon Regiment in Jutland in 1790, where he with bravery earned a brilliant reputation during his engagement in the Napoleonic wars. After heroic effort in battle at Gudow 1813 he became chief in commander for the Light Dragoons of the Funen Regiment, and gained distinction in Sehested. By 1816 he was lieutenant colonel - 10 years later colonel, and in 1831 regimental commander. He retired while Frederik VII reigned. By then his titles were lieutenant general and commander-in-chief.
Høegh-Guldberg had other talents too. While growing up with his brothers, Frederik and Julius, he received a sound education within science and the fine arts and his upbringing was pleasant. Older brother Frederik earned himself a reputation as a poet. He left behind a voluminous almost forgotten work of literary activities in the genre: ”Sentimentalism” and many translations: books about the Danish language and educational writings for the lower classes and peasants. He fought for Danish culture and also held a position as Danish lectureship at Kiel’s University. Younger brother Christian Høegh-Guldberg’s well-mannered education and veneration for the humanities made him an obvious candidate for the post as director of the military library.

Wilhelm Bendz: Unfinished painting of Odense workhouse, 1831. The Hirschsprung Collection

When looking at Wilhelm Bendz’ unfinished painting of Odense workhouse, located very close to the home of Henriette Hanck, it is likely that Christian Høegh-Guldberg took a walk with his wife, Anna Dorothea von Munthe of Morgenstierne. The poor old man would bow to him as the couple passed. The good Colonel did indeed take his daily walks close to his house in Nedergade no. 25 which no longer exists.

Henriette Hanck and H.C. Andersen knew him. Christian Høegh-Guldberg led the regiment in which the poet’s father was enlisted. In H.C. Andersen’s memoirs we read: ”Called for at Bishop Plums. Colonel Guldberg was there; he was surprised to see me and asked me to visit. My performance was liked by all, and I was utterly happy.”
Meeting lieutenant colonel Høegh-Guldberg bore fruit as written in Andersen’s autobiography:

”Later on I got closer to Prince Christian. Guldberg mentioned me and the Prince wished to see me. ”If The Prince asks about your ambitions,” he whispered in my ear, ”tell him you want to study!” – I went there, played a few scenes and sang a few improvised songs. The Prince asked if I desired to act and I candidly exclaimed yes! whilst admitting to listen to other’s advice. The Prince did not favour my acting ambitions but advised me to learn a solid trade since I was a poor child. But I felt no such desire. “If you wish otherwise, do let me know and I shall see to it!” – I was not at all amused and have not spoken with him since. When the Prince visited Kolbjørn­sen, he spoke of me - and this summer (1832) when visiting the hospital – also asked to meet my mother to whom he said: ”Your son is a great honour to you!”" which naturally delighted her very soul – especially since her surroundings also heard it. –”

Christian Høegh-Guldberg truly was the most important benefactor to H.C. Andersen. He took an interest in the fatherless cobbler’s son, sensed the simmering genius and was convinced about the young boy’s extraordinary talent. In 1819 Andersen prepared for a journey and needed letters of recommendation; he asked newspaper man Iversen, as Høegh-Guldberg was away. The latter would perhaps have provided some more useful letters. Høegh-Guldberg had already written to theatre manager at the Royal Theatre, Holstein, and recommended the lad and also informed his brother in Copenhagen, the obliging poet and language teacher Frederik, about the arrival of Andersen.

The colonel lieutenant in Odense continued to carry out the support of his protégé in Copenhagen. The Royal Library in Copenhagen has some letters, of which none has been transcribed yet, from Colonel Christian Høegh-Guldberg to H.C. Andersen; most of them derive from the poet’s years at school and mention his budding genius. They are most interesting to read: full of fatherly love and trust. A letter from December 1831 reads: ”You always call me your fatherly friend and how right you are: I do not love my own son more than I love you, my dear Andersen!”.
The letters also tell us that Andersen sent Guldberg poems and bulletins about his life at school and how the patron both encouraged and admonished the young poet:
”On behalf of myself and the family I do thank you whole-heartedly for the sweet poem; its given and received by heart. The prologue pleased us with its beauty and brightness; when you are fully educated your ancient, inspirational sources shall … become brighter … Dear me, this need more work – do not be tempted to write verses for special occasions…”, it reads in a letter from April 16 1823 to the pupil – then aged eighteen.  

In a birthday greeting from 1827 – shortly before Andersen’s rupture with Meisling ­– Guldberg writes:
”Dear A! Move forward vigorously – never ever weakly backwards – and do remember that any whimpering whatsoever is a step backwards. Thus, you must move on. You know I know you will; you are an innocent boy – let the most beloved truth be your guiding star! Peace of God to you on April 2nd!”

Christian Høegh-Guldberg’s bracing letters most likely soothed the despairing school boy; the poems he sent were admired and praised yet at the same time encouraging Andersen not to take to rhyming but spend the energy on his education:  
”… I wish this advice will reach your heart and spirit. Do not stop and pause when you are halfway there. Either something or nothing at all; for strength, young friend! allows God to guide you in the right direction!”

Nedergade no. 25, home of Christian Høegh-Guldberg, privately owned.

When H.C. Andersen had completed his MA, his old friend enthusiastically expressed how thrilled he was on behalf of his protégée’s talent – yet accompanied by another admonition:
”So far Travelling on foot has mostly had my interest. It seems humorous and agreeable to me. In short, dear Andersen, always be true to yourself - id est: Detest error, not persons! Let this be your motto! Another humble request from your old friend: Do not neglect your studies – I deeply beg of you!.”

The letter was written December 28 1828, five days before the poet had his début. Christian Høegh-Guldberg had been following young Andersen from his poor upbringing in Odense through the years at theatre in Copenhagen and at university and now he reaped the benefits as he watched his ”unspoiled favourite” as a young, aspiring writer.
Høegh-Guldberg asks in a letter: ”Please do send me three copies[3]. One for me and two for the Military library, in print please.” Via his position as director of the Funen Military Library the colonel made sure his favourite’s books were available at the library.

After WW2 the Funen Military Library was gradually dismantled, and most parts of the military relevant books was accrued to the impressive Royal Garrison Library in Copenhagen. The rest of the once so well-stocked Military Library remained in Odense in the barrack’s mess room. Later on, many of them were simply discarded.
In spring of 2006 our museum received an enquiry from The Total Defence Guard of Southern Denmark asking if we wanted twenty-nine books from the Military Library. The books were in a tremendous good condition despite having been stored in boxes for many years. Much to our surprise all the books was by H.C. Andersen – and moreover; all but one was first editions.
Those precious books were kept in a contemporary, blue paperboard with the stamp from the Military Library. Unfolding the content gave way to more astonishment: the first book was the début: Travelling on foot from Holmens Canal to Østpynten at Amager during 1828-1829, published January 2 1829 by H.C. Andersen as his ‘own publishing firm’. In the winter of 1828/29 Andersen sent his benefactor copies of the very same and rare book. Those twenty-nine books, represented in the Military Library, covered every niche of Andersen’s literary activities. Almost a symbol of the love the respectable Colonel Høegh-Guldberg held for both Andersen and his library.

Original 1829, published on Andersen’s own expense a few years after he became non-commissioned officer. Odense

It is hard to imagine a more magnificent gift than this! Those precious first editions, and their quality, added more value to the Andersen collection. This grandiose donation allows us to catch a glimpse of H.C. Andersen as well as the military history of Odense and its history of libraries. Many a Danish soldier has had fun reading these books – one of them may even have been Carl Nielsen, the composer who served as a musician in the military in his youth. Our museum is very proud to incorporate these collections to H.C. Andersens Hus.

The disabled Henriette Hanck did not find the book she was looking for in 1838 but her small walk lets us know a bit more about the libraries in Odense more than 170 years ago.
I find it rather surprising that the market town, in those days and age, went to such great extend in order to make the knowledge available to the public. Although it was necessary for the libraries to cover their expenses via membership or user's fees, which eventually hindered the necessitous people in getting access to the books (apart from the Civilian library that was free of charge and gladly loaned its morally, devotional literature) the intention was indeed noble: knowledge was to be made available to the general public – then a mere 9,000 souls - and some went to a great extend in order to achieve it.
We are lucky to have those libraries today; most of the information from this article is derived from books available – and free – from Odense Central Library. I also had full access to the archives at The Royal Library. My humble wish is that we maintain our libraries and their regional branches. It would indeed be a great loss if they were centralized: many children and adults - and those in the position of Henriette Hanck – do not have the strength or the possibilities to visit in their quest for knowledge and information.

[1] Present owner is Roskilde Convent. All books were saved, and are now at the City Archives where they may be viewed upon request. 

[2] Is still a private library, and the largest one on Fyn. 

[3] All letters cited here belong to The Royal Library, Copenhagen. The copies requested are all Travelling on foot. 



Odense City Museums
Overgade 48
DK-5000 Odense C
Tel +45 6551 4601
CVR: 39156040
EAN: 5790002433825


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