Hans Christian Andersen: European Witness

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in The Telegraph:

Andersen-pea_2905060bOn June 11 1857, Hans Christian Andersen arrived at Charles Dickens’s house, having previously arranged to stay for a week. A month later he was still there. “We are suffering a great deal from Andersen,” Dickens wrote to a friend on July 10, and when his guest finally left he put a note on the mantelpiece that read: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks – which seemed to the family AGES!” His daughter Katey was even harsher, declaring that Andersen was “a bony bore” who “stayed on and on”.

While Andersen was undeniably a difficult man – vain, self-absorbed and painfully insecure – he might have expected a more sympathetic reception from Dickens. Both were writers at the top of their profession who had fought their way up from the depths. Andersen’s father was a shoemaker who had died of tuberculosis, his mother was an alcoholic washerwoman who ended up being committed to an asylum, and when little Hans was put to work in a cloth mill, the other employees, on hearing him sing, tore off his clothes to find out if he was a boy or girl.

More here.