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Nekrolog i New York Tribune torsdag 24. mai 1906.
HENRIK IBSEN DEAD.
Poet and Dramatist Expires Peacefully at Christiania.
Christiania, May 23. – Henrik Ibsen, Norways great poet and dramatist, died peacefully at 2:30 oclock this afternoon.
Although Ibsens literary activity ceased some years ago when an apoplectic seizure forced him to refrain from mental effort, he had continued to be a familiar figure in the life of Christiania, and was frequently seen driving in the streets with a companion. From time to time lately as fresh apoplectic attacks came upon him, it became obvious, especially in view of his advanced years, that his death could not be far distant. His condition last week was disquieting. On Tuesday night another seizure left him unconscious, and his physician, Dr. Bull, announced that he had only a few hours to live. At 2 oclock this afternoon the patients respiration weakened, and the nurse in attendance summoned Mme. Ibsen, the poets son, Sigurd Ibsen, and the latters wife, who remained at the bedside until the end.
The Norwegian dramatist, who died yesterday.
King Haakon, as soon as he received news of Ibsens death, transmitted to the widow his own and Queen Maudes sympathy and condolence. The Storthing and other public bodies are formally recording the national grief at the loss of this leading figure in the literary life of the nation. All the theatres were closed to-night. The Authors Union has placed a wreath on the Ibsen monument outside the National Theatre. It is understood that the funeral will be a state ceremony.
The death of Henrik Ibsen removes from the scene one of the most conspicuous types of the modern spirit of unrest. He was the spokesman of those individuals whose discontent with themselves, and with existing conditions, urges them to rebellion, but who lack either the religious faith or the intellectual power to force their destinies to a happy issue. It is the natural tendency of such fevered souls and yeasty minds to take the line of least resistance, and Ibsen indicated it for them in declaring that the ego should have its chance, though the heavens were to fall. This comfortable doctrine being the burden of his writings, he naturally came to assume tremendous importance in many quarters, and his death must undoubtedly be noted with interest wherever social questions are discussed. Ibsen brought to the handling of those questions something of the artistic temperament, but more of the sardonically philosophic mind. He had a strangely mixed nature. Nominally he dealt with the problems of mankind at large. He sought to give the personages in his drama a universal significance; he tried to make them symbols of modern life, rather than exemplars of purely local conditions. He starts with the presumption that his characters are nothing if not representative. He was not gifted, however, with quite enough creative power, with quite enough sweep of imagination, to lift his men and women above a pedestrian level. He was a born provincial, and a provincial pettiness limits the effect of all his plays. These leave the impression, not of a genius for taking wide and penetrating views, but of a talent for dramatizing episodes of human weakness, wrong-headedness, viciousness or flat stupidity, as the case may be. The philosopher has glimpses of broad laws of conduct or of fate, but he cannot see deep enough, or rise high enough, to grasp their secret and to interpret them in such wise as to make them truly inspiring.
Ibsen achieved his vogue a vogue which is even now passing through talking, with a great show of unconventionality both as regards manners and morals, about the fulfilment of self. His plays have an air as of proving that there is nothing so righteous as following the dictates of your individuality, an idea in perfect harmony with the materialistic tendency of his time. It is a pernicious idea, and Ibsen made it the more harmful through embodying it in dramas filled with sickly characters and brimming over with sicklier sentiments. Wanting the instinct of the poet, the sense of fineness and of beauty which is so indispensable in work bearing upon the troubles of the human soul, he dwelt with a kind of unholy persistence upon types and situations of extreme morbidity. The result was the production of a number of plays which, for all the good intentions underlying them, are essentially abnormal and therefore repugnant to sound criticism. Of course, in these matters everything depends upon the way in which the thing is done. If the gods had been kinder to Ibsen, if they had widened his mental horizon and given him the impeccable sense of perspective which is bestowed upon the supreme masters, he might have painted a truer picture of human nature in his dramas, and thereby extended their appeal. As it is, his vehement but narrow minded and warped efforts to reform the social order have commended themselves chiefly, as we have said, to those whose thoughts and emotions are in a sort of unhappy muddle, and whose hearts cry out for joy at what looks to them like a ratification of their own weak and selfish impulses. Ibsens influence along these lines has loomed larger in recent years through the adoption of his ideas by clever disciples, especially among the Germans. No other dramatist of the period has been so widely imitated. Writers in all countries, predisposed by the whole drift of society to make the burning question a theatrical motive, have gone to Ibsen as to the man best qualified to show them how to make the most of it. Partly his tone of high and mighty freedom from convention has beguiled them, and partly they have been attracted by his stagecraft, though on this point the followers of Ibsen suffer from some queer illusions.
He knew his trade, of that there can be no question. He had the playwrights natural gift, and, in addition to this, considerable practical experience of the theatre in his earlier years taught him not only what to do, but what to avoid. In dramatic construction, in short, he reached an excellence which alone would have won him a hearing. But there is something positively naïve about the enthusiasm of the people who fondly talk as though Ibsen had invented the «well made play." That form of art was brought to perfection in France a long time ago, and while there, as elsewhere, many a playwright has taken a leaf out of Ibsens book on the side of technique, his usefulness to the stage in this regard has been grossly exaggerated. Indeed, his whole relation to dramatic literature has been overstated by his devoted admirers, some of whom have carried laudation of him to the point of hysteria. It is tolerably certain that this would not have occurred save for the anarchistic element in modern thought, to which, in a discussion of Ibsen, one is bound to return again and again. The later years of the nineteenth century were ripe for the unsettling ministrations of men like Nietzsche and Ibsen, men keen on meeting the animal in man half way, and on throwing a glamour of «naturalness" over its lustful affirmations and its callous rejection of undesired obligations. In other words, Ibsen came to tell thousands just what they wanted to be told. He delivered his «message" with the more aplomb because he was himself an egotist not only from theory, but from the promptings of his nature. His recently published letters have shown with what sublime selfishness he pursued his career. He was as cold as a fish and as hard as nails. It is doubtful if he ever felt a passion of tenderness, of gentle, kindly feeling for mankind, and it is certain that he had not an atom of humor. There is something ironical about the fate which promises to overtake him. He wrapt his works in an appalling solemnity, and the world is learning to laugh at his portentous assumptions. His faithful followers have emulated, and some of them still emulate, his owlish gravity, but the Ibsen hypothesis has for some time been running emptyings, and is now dwindling away in the shrill nonsense of a Bernard Shaw. The time will come when men will wonder why they listened with so much patience to the Scandinavian oracle. The main facts of his career may be briefly narrated.
Henrik Ibsen was born at Skien on March 20, 1828. He was the son of Knud Ibsen, a merchant descended from a family of shipmasters, and had Scotch and German, as well as Scandinavian, blood in his veins. His early life was spent at Skien and on a farm a few miles away. Owing to business reverses the family was in straitened circumstances until young Ibsen was fourteen. He had attended a scientific school in Skien, and in 1843 he became an apothecarys assistant at Grimstad, a Norwegian seaport. His early ambition had been to become a painter, but the carrying out of this purpose was precluded by the need of his earning a living, and he was apprenticed to an apothecary. The chief events in Grimstad were the arrivals and departures of vessels, and the social life of the community centred at the apothecarys shop, where the youthful assistant had ample opportunity to study human nature in those whose prescriptions he filled or whose wants he supplied, as well as in other visitors who gossiped about the news. His early literary and art inclinations were also encouraged by the opportunities he had to read and sketch. He began to write poetry and dramas and his «Catalina," a tragedy in three acts, was published at his own expense in 1850. In that year he went to Christiania and matriculated at the university to study medicine, but the successful production of his one-act drama «The Warriors Mound," diverted his attention from the study of a profession to the theatre. In 1851 he and two associates founded a weekly newspaper called «Man" and in this young Ibsens political satire, «Norma; or, A Politicians Love," was published, and also a number of poems from his pen, before its brief existence ended.
In November, 1857, he was appointed stage manager for the theatre newly established by Ole Bull at Bergen, and went to Germany for three months to study the art of stage production, and while there wrote «St. Johns Night», which, with others of his early plays, he subsequently produced at Bergen. For five years he was in active stage management in that city, presenting many dramas, and each year one of his own, until in 1856 his «The Banquet at Solhaug» was heartily received at the chief cities of Sweden and Norway.
In 1857 he was made director of the Norwegian Theatre, in Christiania, and the following year he was married. With Bjornson and other poets and dramatists he founded the Norwegian Society, to oppose the supremacy of the Danish drama in Christiania, and their influence led to the return of the Danish players to Copenhagen. His management of the Norwegian Theatre plunged it into bankruptcy, the players found fault with his management, and his plays, «The Vikings of Helgeland» and «Loves Comedy», were condemned, and in 1862 he left the theatre and sought a place in the custom house. His friends endeavored to get him a poets pension, and this was granted to him in 1866. He then went abroad for a term of years, going first to Rome, where he wrote his satirical poem on public men of Norway, «Brand». From Rome he went to Dresden, where «Peer Gynt», a dramatic poem, was published in 1867, and later to Munich and to Italy and the Orient for extended trips. In 1869 his «The League of Youth», a political comedy, appeared, and was the last work of the kind, save «The Emperor and Galilean», in 1873. His interest thereafter was centred in social problems, and he produced the series of dramas which contain that characteristic personal presentation of realism which has come to be called «Ibsenism». «The Pillars of Society», the first of this series, appeared in 1877, followed by «A Dolls House», in 1879; «Ghosts», 1881; «An Enemy of the People», 1882; «The Wild Duck», 1884; «Rosmersholm», 1886; «The Lady from the Sea», 1888; «Hedda Gabler», 1890; «Master Builder Solness», 1892; «Little Eyolf», 1894; «John Gabriel Borkman», 1896, and «When the Dead Awaken», 1900.
Ibsen has had many admirers in this country, and frequent attempts have been made at stage representations of his plays. Prominent actors have often been engaged in these, and with regard merely to the performances some of the productions have been extremely creditable. It is scarcely necessary to say, however, that no one of them, with the possible exception of «A Dolls House», has ever made the slightest approach toward popularity. The disciples of Ibsen have bewailed the inability of the public to appreciate the dramas as acted before them, but the public has remained obdurate, and one or two performances of any given play in the same city have generally proved enough. «A Dolls House» has been repeatedly given in this city and elsewhere, both in English and in German, and, although it has never enjoyed any extended run, it has met with more public favor than any of the rest. Others which have had occasional performances in this country are «Ghosts», «The Pillars of Society», «Hedda Gabler», «Master Builder Solness», «Little Eyolf» and «John Gabriel Borkman».
From 1866 to 1891 Dr. Ibsen (the University of Upsala, Sweden, gave him the degree of Doctor of Philology in 1877) lived away from Norway, resenting the attitude of his country toward Germany, but after 1891 he made his home in Christiania. His seventieth birthday was observed nationally, and he received gifts and greetings from almost every part of the civilized world. In 1899 a bronze statue of him was erected in front of the New National Theatre, near that of Bjornson. There has been a great amount of discussion in print of his dramatic work, and many attempts to elucidate its meaning in both English and German. Dr. Ibsen had one son, Sigurd Ibsen, who is in public life in Norway, and who married a daughter of Bjornson, the poet. Ibsen was thus described by a Tribune correspondent a few years ago:
«Ibsen is a portly, large framed man with a high, dome shaped forehead and a well developed head. He has thick white hair, keen blue eyes behind a pair of close fitting spectacles, and coarsed features. There is intellect in his forehead, sharpness of perception in his eyes, a suggestion of ill temper in his nose and downright pessimism in his mouth his worst feature. He is a lonely, unsociable man, who does not enjoy talking with his fellow creatures nor having intimate relations with them. He has few companions, and lives quietly, almost like a recluse.»
«Journalists he abhors with a profound aversion and denounces as calumniators. He is a philosopher of the type of Diogenes, disposed to believe that it is a self-seeking, dishonest world, yet cynically indifferent to the bearings of morality so long as he can have his acrid jest and practise his art. He does not pretend to be a moralist, but takes pride in calling himself a literary artist who writes dramas of human passion and emotion.»