Adam Oehlenschlager

Portrait of Adam Oehlenschlager

Adam Oehlenschlager was a Danish poet and playwright who introduced Romanticism to Denmark. He was born on 14th November 1779 in Copenhagen and died there on 20th January 1850 aged 70.

Major Works

Digte” (Poems) (1803) 
“Earl Hakon” (1807)
Baldur hin Gode”. (Baldur the Good) (1808)
Axel og Valborg” (Axel and Valborg) (1810)
“Correggio” (1811)
“Aladdin of the Wonderful Lamp” (1820)

Biography Timeline

Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger was born on 14th November 1779 in Vesterbro in Copenhagen, Denmark. His father Joachim Conrad Oehlenschläger was an organist at Frederiksberg Castle, near Copenhagen. His mother Martha Marie Hansen suffered from depression and later madness. He was educated at a school run by the Norwegian poet Edvard Storm. 

1788: He begins writing poetry.

1795: He is confirmed in the church and is destined by his father to become an apprentice to a tradesman.

1797: Instead he becomes a jobbing actor but is not very successful. 

1800: His mother dies. He enters the University of Copenhagen to study law.

1801: The Battle of Copenhagen inspires him to write “April the Second 1801”.

1802: He writes the poem “Guldhornene” (The Golden Horns) after a meeting with the Norwegian scientist/philosopher Henrik Steffens, recently returned to Copenhagen, who was committed to the ideals of German Romanticism and had been to the lectures in Germany of Fredrich Schelling and Fredrich von Schiller.

1803: His first collection, entitled “Digte” (Poems), is published.

1805: He publishes “Poetiske Skrifter” (Poetic Writings) in two volumes which contains cycles of lyric poems and “Aladdin”, a poetic drama on the writer’s own life with the lamp symbolising poetic genius. He receives a government grant to study abroad and goes to Germany. In August he re-joins Steffens at the University of Halle and writes “Hakon Jarl”. He spends the winter in Berlin where he meets Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

1806: In the spring he spends a good deal of time in Weimar conversing with Goethe. In the Autumn he moves on to Dresden where he meets the poet Ludwig Tieck and then in December moves on to Paris.

1807: He publishes “Nordiske Digte” (Nordic Poems) which includes the tragedy of “Hakon Jarl hin Rige” (Earl Haakon the Great), based on the Danish national hero.

1808: In July he leaves Paris and goes to Switzerland as the guest of Madame de Stael at her home in Coppet. Here he writes “Baldur hin Gode”. 

1809: In the spring he goes to Rome to visit the Danish Sculptor Bertel Thorvalsdsen and writes the tragedy “Correggio”. He publishes “Palnatoke”.

1810: He returns to Denmark where he is appointed professor of Aesthetics at the University of Copenhagen. He marries Christiane Georgine Elisabeth Heger, the sister of the Danish writer Kamma Rahbek. He publishes the five-act tragedy “Axel og Valborg” which he wrote whilst in Paris. 

1811: He publishes the Oriental tale of “Ali og Gulhynd”.

1812: He publishes the tragedy “Stærkodder”

1814: He becomes embroiled in a bitter feud with Jens Immanuel Baggesen as to whom is the most important Danish writer. He publishes the “Helge” cycle.

1815: He publishes the tragedy of “Hagbarth og Signe”.

1817: He returns to Paris and publishes “Hroars Saga” and the tragedy of “Fostbrødrene”.

1818: Death of his sister Sophie Orsted. Back again in Copenhagen he writes “Den lille Hyrdedreng” and “Nordens Guder”.

1819: He publishes “Nordens Guder” (The Gods of the North).

1820: He writes the tragedy of “Erik og Abel”.

1826: He writes “Væringerne i Miklagaard”.

1827: His father dies.

1829: He is crowned in Lund Cathedral as the “King of Nordic Poetry” and the “Scandinavian King of Song” by the Bishop of Vaxjo. He writes the epic “Hrolf Krake”.

1833: He publishes “Tordenskjold” and “Dronning Margrethe”. 

1835: He publishes “Sokrates”.

1836: He publishes “Olaf den Hellige”.

1838: He publishes “Knud den Store”.

1842: He publishes “Dina”.

1843: He publishes “Erik Glipping”.

1847: He publishes “Kiartan og Gudrun”.

1849: On the occasion of his seventieth birthday on 14th November a public festival is arranged in his honour and he is awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Dannebrog by the King of Denmark.

Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger died on 20th January 1850 in Copehagen and was buried in the cemetery of Frederiksberg Church in the city.