[William Archer, Hans Lien Brækstad and the Norwegian circle in London.] Correspondence addressed to Brækstad and his wife Gertrude Hughes Braekstad: from William Archer, Frances Archer, Einar Sundt, Johan Peter Bull, John Manson.

William Archer (1856-1924), theatre critic and translator of Henrik Ibsen; Hans Lien Brækstad (1845-1915); Gertrude Hughes Braekstad; Einar Sundt; Johan Peter Bull; John Manson; Norway; Norwegian
Publication details: 
[London, England; and Kristiania (Oslo), Norway.] Eleven letters, ten of them dating from between 1915 and 1925. Four of Archer's five letters from 27 Fitzroy Square, W. [London]
SKU: 21164

A notable item in the present collection is a letter written by William Archer to Braekstad's widow in 1923, in which he gives a fulsome assessment of his character, describing his 'old friend' as 'the unofficial and unpaid consul for Norway', 'unwearied in his service to his country as represented by Norwegians in London'. Hans Lien Brækstad (who has a brief entry in Who Was Who) features prominently in Lionel Carley's 'Edward Grieg in England' (2006), where he is described as 'a major Norwegian presence in London. A political activist, writer, critic, translator and lecturer, he had settled in the city in 1877 and soon became well known in Anglo-Norwegian circles. […] Until his country achieved independence from Sweden in 1905 (soon after which he was appointed Norwegian Vice-Consul) he enjoyed a reputation as Norway's unofficial – and of course unpaid – ambassador in London.' Carley quotes Bernard Shaw's description of Braekstad as 'in a quiet but effective way […] a kind of Consul General for Norway in London, […] frequently involved in various official undertakings, […] being the one who first persuaded Mr Edmund Gosse to write about Ibsen'. In addition, Braekstad played a prominent role in the introduction of the English to the works of Henrik Ibsen. Carley explains: 'Henrik Ibsen's 'work and his name are unknown in England until 1871 the young Edmund Gosse visits a bookshop in Trondheim and is served by the equally young Hans Lien Braekstad. He buys Ibsen's collected poems, recommended to him by Braekstad, and is seduced by Ibsen's work, soon telling readers of the Spectator about this important new writer from the North. In the 1880s London's cognoscenti are on the trail, and William Archer begins his series of translations of Ibsen's plays. Meanwhile Braekstad has emigrated to England and become a prime mover in the dissemination of Norwegian literature and music in London – electing in his journalistic capacity, moreover, to become Grieg's enthusiastic champion.' The present collection consists of eleven items of correspondence: three to Braekstad and eight to his wife Gertrude Hughes Braekstad (who collaborated with her husband in translations). One undated, the other ten between 1915 and 1925. The collection in good condition, with light signs of age and wear. 22pp. in total. Comprising: Five letters (two ALsS and three TLsS) to Mrs Braekstad from William Archer (1856-1924), Scottish theatre critic in London, early advocate and translator of Ibsen, friend of Bernard Shaw; 1915-1923, four on letterhead of 27 Fitzroy Square [London]. One ALS to Mrs Braekstad from Archer's wife Frances (1855-1929, née Trickett), 1925. Two ALsS from Johan Peter Bull (1883-1960), secretary of the National Theatre of Norway: one, in Norwegian, to 'Herr Braekstad', on letterhead of the 'Nationaltheatret', Kristiania; the other, in English, to Mrs Braekstad; both from 1915. One ALS to Braekstad from Einar Sundt (1854-1917), editor of the Oslo business magazine 'Farmand', in Norwegian, on letterhead of 'Farmand. | Norsk Forretningsblad', 1915. Two ALsS from John Manson: the first to Braekstad, from 124A Adelaide Road, Brockley, undated; the second to Mrs Braekstad, from Rosecroft, Hare Lane, Claygate, 1921. Archer's first letter (16 June 1915) is written to Mrs Braekstad following her husband's death on the suggestion of Edmund Gosse, and asks her whether she would 'consent to his trying to procure a grant for you from the Royal Literary Fund? It would only be a single grant, not a pension, but it might help you to tide over any immediate difficulties.' Gosse 'adds that it would be absolutely confidential & secret', and Archer feels that 'it is only right that some recognition should be made of all that Hans did for introducing Scandinavian literature to England'. After some news of his wife, he turns to Braekstad's death and funeral: 'I need not tell you what a shock the sad news was to me, & how I shall miss my old and kind friend, with whom I never had a moment's disagreement. You will have heard that there was a large attendance at Golder's Green on Saturday, and that Mr. Gould spoke with excellent feeling. I was rather sorry that something was not said in Norwegian, but it was too late to think of that.' Mrs Braekstad has annotated the letter: 'I was foolish enough not to accept this grant from the literary fund. I ought to have asked the advice of the Norwegian Minister for it. | Gertrude Braekstad'. The following day Archer writes again, explaining that the 'proposal about the Royal Literary Fund was not at all a result of your letter to my wife but was a spontaneous idea of Mr. Gosse's on hearing that you were not left well off. However, both he & I are very glad to hear that your position is better than I imagined it to be. He bids me say that if at any time you should find yourself in need of temporary assistance, he will be very glad to make an effort with the Fund on your behalf.' Archer will be 'very glad to have the two volumes of “Holbergs Comedier” as a memento of my dear old friend'. A week later (24 June 1915) he acknowledges receipt of the books, and for 'the two drawings which I am very glad to have. The portrait of myself I remember very well – it dates from the “Black & White” days'. Braekstad's library is evidently being sold in Norway, and Archer enquires: 'Have the boxes of books gone off to Norway? If they have not, it occurs to me that if there is any room I might put in a lot of Norwegian books that I should he very glad to get rid of, & which might always add a few kroner to the value of the library.' On 13 September 1917 Archer writes about 'an audacious hoax' involving the 'Dobell' – the London bookseller Bertram Dobell or his sons Percy and Arthur: 'I think you may quite safely acquit Dobell of having done anything amiss in this matter. […] The man has not got any manuscript from Dobell or any one else. The play which he is trying to palm off as being by Ibsen was written (probably by himself, but that I can't tell) at least twenty years ago, for I know a man that read it at that time. The whole thing is an attempt to get up controversy & thus secure advertisement.' He suggests that she write to the Westminster, 'as several paragraphs about the alleged Ibsen play have appeared in it; but of course any paper would do'. In Archer's final letter, 2 July 1923, he give, at Mrs Braekstad's request, an assessment of Braekstad's character: 'I think the master trait in H. L. Braekstad's character was serviceableness, helpfulness. He was serviceable to his friends of all nationalities, but especially he was unwearied in his service to his country as represented by Norwegians in London. I knew him well for twenty years before 1905, and during that time I have often described him as the unofficial and unpaid consul for Norway. The description was just. His helpfulness was generous & unbounded. It was in no way over-estimated in the splendid testimonial from his countrymen which he showed me the last time I saw him. He was eminently a man who deserves to be held in grateful memory by all good Norwegians'. Frances Archer writes (12 January 1925) following her husband's death: 'Life is terribly empty without him! but I feel sure, with you, that he is with Tom [the Archers' son, killed in action in the First World War] & with dear Mr Braekstad & many other dear old friends'. The first of John Manson's letters gives Braekstaed advice regarding the nautical terminology in a book which he has translated. For example: 'I have changed “jolly-boat” to “dinghy.” The latter is a more modern term, I think.' He also states: 'By the way, my assistant in Long Acre is a yachting man, and if you should be having proofs of the book I could get his opinion about technical terms. I knew a good deal about sea terms myself when I had the sea fever at school, but that is a long time ago & I may be a little shaky. Still I pride myself even now on knowing a barque from a ship, & a brig from a brigantine, and that is something after all for a landlubber'. In his second letter Manson describes the establishment of his new engineering business following 'the termination of my agreement with the “old firm”', adding: 'I am thinking that if you ever do think of settling in London again and hadn't anything better to do, and if I have got to the stage of taking on an extra room, I ought to be able to find you some sort of a job for general translation work.' Sundt begins his English letter, written from 'Christiania March 16th 1915', on the eve of Braekstadt's death: 'Just now my secretary telephoned that the Storting has voted, on the motion of assessor Hagerup Bull, a pension of K 6000 for Mr Braekstadt. I make haste to congratulate you, not so much on account of the additional K 2000, although I am sure they will come quite handy, but because of the acknowledgment of Mr Braekstadt's merits which lies in such a vote.' He hopes that Braekstadt 'may soon be restored to health so that he may enjoy his otiam, which has now really become one “of dignity” | The Norwegian press has done itself an honour by recommending without any party distinction that Mr Braekstad should be treated as the distinguished man he is, and it has thereby been able to pay off a little on its debt of gratitude to your husband'. A note by 'Therese Sundt' follows, adding her congratulations.