Jens Immanuel Baggesen

Portrait of Jens Baggesen

Jens Immanuel Baggesen was a major Danish Romantic poet, critic, librettist and comic writer. He was born on 15th February 1764, in Korsor, Denmark and died on 3rd October 1826, in Hamburg, Germany aged 62.

Major Works

Comiske Fortællinger” (Comical Tales). (1785).
”Labyrinten” (Labyrinth) (1792)
Parthenais” (1803)

Biography Timeline

Jens Baggesen was born on 15th February 1764 in Korsør, on the Island of Zealand, Denmark. Both his parents were poor and he had a miserable childhood where he attempted suicide several times, however he managed to complete his schooling. 

1782: He enters the University of Copenhagen in Denmark to study theology.

1785: Aged twenty-one he has his first success with publication of his collection of poems “Comiske Fortællinger” (Comical Tales). 

1789: He writes the libretto for the first major Danish Opera “Holger Danske” (Ogier the Dane) with music by Friedrich Kunzen. He receives a vast amount of criticism largely due to its literary faults and the lack of nationalism. He is accused of being more German than Danish. Disappointed he embarks on a series of travels through Germany, Switzerland and France.  

1790: He gets married in Bern in Switzerland and begins to write exclusively in German. He publishes his next poem “Alpenlied” (Alpine Song). 

1792: In the winter he writes “Labyrinten” (Labyrinth) in Danish as a peace offering to his countrymen. It is received well and from now on he alternates between the two languages. He is an admirer of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the French Revolution as well as reading Immanuel Kant and praising the Romantic poetry of Adam Oehlenschlager.

1803: His most important German work is “Parthenais” written in hexameter form.

1806: He visits Copenhagen where he finds Oehlenschlager as the most important poet of the day and that his own popularity has diminished. He then gets into an abusive feud with the younger man determined not to allow Oehlenschläger to be considered a greater poet than himself.

1820: He leaves for Paris.

1822: Both his second wife and his youngest child die.

1826: He is thrown into a debtor’s prison and falls into madness. After release he recovers enough to undertake the journey back to Denmark.

Jens Baggesen died en route home to Denmark on 3rd October 1836 at the Freemason’s hospital in Hamburg. He was buried at Eichhof Cemetery in Kiel, Germany.