Americans and other English speakers have long associated the name of Hans Christian Andersen exclusively with fairy tales for children. Danes and other Scandinavians, however, have preserved an awareness that the fairy tales are but part of an extensive and respectable lifework that embraces several other literary forms. Moreover, they have never lost sight of the fact that the fairy tales themselves address adults no less than children. Significantly, many of Andersens coevals in the U.S. knew of his broader literary activity and the sophistication of his fairy tales. Major authors and critics commented on his various works in leading magazines and books, establishing a noteworthy corpus of criticism. One of them, Horace E. Scudder, wrote a seminal essay that surpassed virtually all contemporary writing on him in any language. The basic purpose of this study, the first of its kind, is to trace the course of American Andersen criticism over the second half of the nineteenth century and to view it in several American contexts.
The introduction sets the parameters of the study, interalia posing a number of questions that serve as guidelines for reading. For instance, how does the (in part) retrospective criticism of the early 1870s compare with that of the later 1840s? To what extent did Americans view Andersen as a writer for adults as well as for children? Chapter 1 presents a statistical overview of American Andersen criticism, seeking to show which works were reviewed when and how often as well as in which magazines and with what frequency. The chapter also highlights works that were not reviewed, suggesting the possible impact on Americans' view of Andersen.