Dresden, 28th October, 1870
But it is really more the story of my intellectual development that you want. Here it is, then.
Everything which I have created as a poet has had its origin in a frame of mind and a situation in life; I never wrote because I had, as they say, `found a good subject.'
Now I shall confess chronologically.
Catiline was written in a little provincial town, where it was impossible for me to give expression to all that fermented in me except by mad, riotous pranks, which brought down upon me the ill-will of all the respectable citizens, who could not enter into that world which I was wrestling with alone.
Lady Inger of Ostraat is the result of a love-affair — hastily entered into and violently broken off — to which several smaller poems may also be attributed, such as `Markblomster og potteplanter' (Field-flowers and pot-plants), `Fuglevise' (A Bird Song), etc., which were printed in the Nyhedsblad (and to which I take this opportunity of calling your attention).
The Vikings at Helgeland I wrote whilst I was engaged to be married. For Hjordis I had the same model as I took afterwards for Svanhild in Love's Comedy.
Not until I was married did more serious interests take possession of my life. The first outcome of this change was a long poem — `Paa Vidderne' (On the Heights). The desire for emancipation which pervades this poem did not, however, receive its full expression until I wrote Love's Comedy, a book which gave rise to much talk in Norway. People mixed up my personal affairs in the discussion, and I fell greatly in public estimation. The only person at that time who approved of the book was my wife. Hers is exactly the character desiderated by a man of mind — she is illogical, but has a strong poetic instinct, a broad and liberal mind, and an almost violent antipathy to all petty considerations.
All this my countrymen did not understand, and I did not choose to make them my father-confessors. So they excommunicated me. All were against me.
The fact that all were against me — that there was no longer any one outside my own family circle of whom I could say: `He believes in me' — must, as you can easily see, have aroused a mood which found its outlet in The Pretenders. But enough on this subject.
Exactly at the time when The Pretenders came out, Frederick VII died, and the war began. I wrote a poem, `En broder i nod' (A Brother in Need). The Norwegian Americanism which had driven me back at every point, rendered it ineffectual. Then I went into exile!
About the time of my arrival at Copenhagen, the Danes were defeated at Dybbol. In Berlin I saw King William's triumphal entry with trophies and booty. During those days Brand began to grow within me like an embryo. When I arrived in Italy, the work of unification there had already been completed by means of a spirit of self-sacrifice which knew no bounds. Add to this, Rome with its ideal peace, association with the care-free artist community, an existence in an atmosphere which can be compared only with that of Shakespeare's As You Like It — and you have the conditions productive of Brand. It is a great mistake to suppose that I have depicted the life and career of Soren Kierkegaard. (I have read very little of S. K., and understood even less.) That Brand is a clergyman is really immaterial; the demand, `All or nothing,' is made in all domains of life — in love, in art, etc. Brand is myself in my best moments — just as certainly as it is certain that by self-analysis I brought to light many of both Peer Gynt's and Stensgaard's qualities.