Bachelor goes a-wooing 7. By Lise Sørensen

Jenny Lind, “The Swedish Nightingale”. Andersen met her for the first time in 1840.

Bachelor goes a-wooing. By Lise Sørensen

Many friends, male and female

His male and female friends. He had lots of the latter. Clearly, he was neither shy nor afraid of the sex; it was not there that the bachelordom lay. He called his own temperament “half feminine”: which, especially in 1975, proclaimed as “international women’s year”, must be seen against the general sex-role patterns of the time. There was no particular underlying hormonal disposition. The fact that he found it so easy to associate with and understand women was no doubt connected with the circumstance that his own social situation in many respects resembled the classical woman’s role: he was a treasure, and a treasure must be seen and not heard. He was deeply dependent on other people’s assessment, appreciation and favour; exactly like contemporary women, whose only social potentiality lay mostly in the ability to get accepted by the sex in power. If there was no suggestion of discrimination in him, the reasons were neither ideological nor moral: his whole psychological method was so alien to generalizations and systematizations that anything of the sort was excluded. To him, all were unique. Today we would consider these characteristics, which he calls “half feminine”, something very advanced. What his contemporaries regarded as weakness, we can now begin to envisage as strength.

And precisely this natural feeling of equality was a hindrance to him when he went wooing. In the courting situation one had to be, as it were, unequal; one had to go down on one’s knees. And his intuition told him that it was as degrading a situation for the one knelt to as for the one kneeling. He tried feverishly to dodge the issue: he always preferred to be absent while the girl was thinking over his little proposal.
His last great love is said to have been the Swedish singer Jenny Lind, who had a little of his own background of poverty, and the same naturalness and warmheartedness at the centre of her art. At one point he handed her a letter, “which she could not fail to understand “, at some juncture that prevented him from seeing the reaction. She did not reply; but neither did she get engaged all at once. Apparently, she was quite unaffected.

“You wouldn’t have an honest prince. .. but the swineherd you could kiss for a musical-box”

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