Danish Journal: The shadows grew longer 2.

The shadows grew longer

Of course there were no more sensational, significant events in his life, but on the other hand he was able to lead an outwardly rather agreeable life. In a modest way, he was financially independent and could arrange things as they suited him. He had fixed addresses in a couple of rented rooms or at a hotel in Copenhagen, where he lived for half the year. There he would visit his many friends and attend the theatre. When he felt like a change, he would go into the country and spend time at the manor houses where he had friends, and where he was always welcome. Abroad, too, he was welcomed as an honoured and admired guest everywhere. It was a life which quite suited his migratory nature.

And yet this life free from ties and obligations had its shadows, and they grew longer and darker as time passed. He had no family relations and had never dared to commit himself in marriage, and inevitably he came more and more to feel the want of a home. He had been able to find distraction from his solitude in earlier years in his extensive writing and his restless travelling. As he grew older, this solitude became a grievous burden to him. There was, too, the state of his health. He had never been robust, although with his tall, strongly built figure it might seem so. He was born with a highly sensitive nervous system, which caused him all sorts of afflictions all his life: faintness, dizziness, depressions and hyper-sensitiveness. He nearly always felt ill.

After 1860, when his energies began to fail, the nervous symptoms grew worse. He was unable to stand such great exertions as before. He became a more and more helpless victim of his impressions, even the most trifling, and could not control his violent reactions.

For these reasons, it become yearly more difficult for him to live the bohemian life he was used to, and it was fortunate for him that in 1862, in the merchant family of Melchior in Copenhagen, he found friends who understood his difficult position and opened their home to him. He was deeply grateful for their hospitality, and he wanted it more and more, especially after 1868 when his strength began to fail him in earnest. It was now more than a matter of nerves; recurrent feverish attacks, indisposition and fainting fits were alarming signs of serious illness. He was able to travel abroad for another couple of years, but in 1873 he wrote home from Switzerland with melancholy self-irony: ‘I sometimes have a feeling in my midriff as if I had been broken in two and riveted together again, but not well.’ On the way home he fainted twice during the railway journey.