Reise durch Schweden im Jahre 1804

  • Country in which the text is set
    Sweden
  • Featured locations
    Falun (Fahlun), Bollnäs, Hälsingland (Helsingland), Stockholm, Påskallavik, Blekinge, Karlskrona, Ystad
  • Impact
    In November 1803, Ernst Moritz Arndt, a Swedish subject and a Privatdozent (associate lecturer) at the (until 1814) Swedish university in Greifswald, travelled to Sweden equipped with letters of recommendation and “addresses.” He spent the winter in Stockholm but early in March 1804 he embarked on a journey that took him first to the west coast (Gothenburg) and from there to the north, through Värmland, Dalarna and Jämtland and then on to Norrland, where he witnessed a Sami wedding. A hot July saw him once again in Stockholm, from where he travelled down the Baltic Sea coast into Scania. On 8 September, 1804 he boarded a ship in Ystad and returned to Stralsund.
    Arndt’s vivid, colourful and detailed accounts of Swedish folk life, of customs, costumes and farming society, provide a rich source of information for research into Swedish social and cultural history. His praise for Sweden’s constitution, its attractive and hard-working people, and the entrepreneurial attitude of the Swedish landed gentry comes across as authentic and candid, even if it was very much welcomed by the Swedish authorities — as a counterweight to unfavourable travelogues such as that written by the Italian Joseph Acerbi (London 1802) — and was surely taken into account in the assessment of Arndt’s application for a professorship in Greifswald.
    While Arndt’s Reise durch Schweden im Jahr 1804 (Journey through Sweden in 1804), which was published in four parts in 1806, still bears the mark of the Enlightenment tradition of travel-writing with an encyclopaedic tendency, it nevertheless exhibits an openness to random encounters and experiences. The writer forgoes any attempt to construct an aesthetic whole and in doing so opens the way for a selective reading.
    The selection presented here includes the narrator’s inspection of the Falun mine taken from the second part of the work, although the discovery of a miner’s corpse conserved in vitriol (1719) is not referred to at all. This story became famous in Germany in 1809, when a literary journal called for poetic works based on Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert’s Nachtseiten der Naturwissenschaft (The dark side of the natural sciences, 1808), which resulted in dozens of poetic treatments. Also included here are Arndt’s appraisal of the sculptor Johann Tobias Sergel, his enthusiastic obituary for the poet and composer Carl Michael Bellman — which is obviously informed by Arndt’s image of himself as a folksinger and writer — and, finally, his account of the final phase of his journey through Blekinge to Scania (all from the fourth part).
  • Balticness
    All countries abutting the Baltic Sea were drawn into the war against Napoleonic France. However, for the agitator Arndt the Baltic Sea was not only a domain of action whose cohesion is repeatedly attested to by his own biography. He also feels the Baltic to be his home and gives voice to a specific Baltic consciousness, one that is manifested in several ways in the text presented here, for example when, after a long overland journey, the sea once again comes into view and the narrator celebrates and reflects on this “nameless delight … at the view of mother Baltic (p. 330); or in his affectionate account of the “Nordic character.” In German usage around 1800, the term Nordic still retained an innocence it would so fatally lose in the context of National Socialist racial ideology.

    Hans Peter Neureuter

  • Bibliographic information

    Berlin: Gottlieb August Lange 1806
    II. Theil, p. 206 - 233
    IV. Theil, p. 39 - 42, 91 - 105, 131 - 159, 273 - 277

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    Swedish  1807-08 J. M. Stjernstolpe
  • Year of first publication
    1806
  • Place of first publication
    Berlin

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