A letter from Norway ...
Dear Robert Cotner
Thank you so much for sending us the February issue of the Caxtonian, with a most interesting article on the first performance of Ghosts. We are well aware of the fact that this event first took place in Chicago. I also held a lecture at the Ibsen Museum some years ago on how the drama was received in Europe and especially what happened to Ghosts in Christiania (Oslo). In short, it was fightings three afternoons in Christiania Theatre when the director refused to play Ghosts and a travelling company of Swedish actors performed the drama at another theatre in town. I am really surprised by all the facts that Mr. Bruce Hatton Boyer brought up, and especially what he wrote about translations and cultural differences, the funny picture of Aurora Turner Hall in 1905, and all the information on literary works done by Scandinavians in the 19th century Chicago, even though I’ve seen several Chicago prints of well- known Norwegian books in the National Library here in Oslo. For instance, Ludvid Daaae’s Norske Bygdesagn.
I have already showed the Caxtonian to many Ibsen scholars here in Norway (Professor Vigdisstad, Professor Bjorn Hemmer, the other two Ibsen Museums (Skien and Grimstad), Centre for Ibsen Studies, etc.) and also a lady from the British Library in London, who visited me right after I received the Caxtonian from you. Could you please send me some more copies of your nice journal? I would really enjoy distributing them to my Ibsen friends and to the Scandinavian Section at the British Library.
In fact, I had a reason for not responding to you earlier. I have written a book called Ibsens Christiania. It has recently been printed in Denmark and will probably be back in Norway on May 7th. But the original idea was that it should have been a book for tourists, translated and released in both Norwegian and English. I hoped that I could be able to send you the English version, but as I wrote a manuscript that was about three times as long as the publisher wanted and with lot more details, it had to be a kind of history book in a larger format instead. It is a pity that it won’t be translated, because in this book I have got some interesting facts about the man who took the first portrait of Ibsen. Edvard Larssen was his name, and he later became a model for Hjalmar Ekdal in The Wild Duck (1884). Edvard Larssen left Norway in 1865 and dwelled in Chicago for the rest of his life. We know almost nothing about him from that moment on, but at the time Larssen met Ibsen he too started to write poems and even published a book, Digte (1862).
My book will probably not be of any interest to you now in the Norwegian language, but I enclose a copy of some pages concerning Edvard Larssen with pictures of their possible co-residence in Hegdehaugen in Christiania and the cover of Larssen’s book. I guess that he continued to write books in Chicago. Anyway, it is said that Larssen worked as a journalist and perhaps also as publisher of some newspapers too. The reason why Ibsen and Larssen might have lived on the same address is because Professor Francis Bull told in his book on Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (1947), that the playwright lived together with the photographer in this house. The same photographer should have taught Ibsen how to develop a picture from the negative glass plate, which led to the description of a purgatory in terms of changing pictures from black to white in the last act of Peer Gynt. Unfortunately, Professor Bull didn’t mention the photographer’s name and it has so far been impossible for me to find relevant archive sources to be sure.
Who could that photographer be? We know that the first portrait of Ibsen was taken by Edvard Larssen in the actual period 1860 or 1861 and it was not many photographers in Christiania then. If it is correct that Edvard Larssen had been that close to Ibsen he would probably also have written something about this when Ghosts was first performed in Chicago or when Peer Gynt or The Wild Duck was released. Perhaps this could be something of interest for Mr. Boyer and another article in the Caxtonian?
With regardsyours sincerely
Erik Henning Edvardsen
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