Hjalmar Boyesen

Hjalmar BoyesenIn biographies, Hjalmar Boyesen (1848-1895) Norwegian-born, German educated, American professor of Germanic languages and literature noted for his 1879 Goethe and Schiller: Their Lives and Collected Works and his five-volume 1885 Goethe’s Works Illustrated by the Best German Artists, The Life of Goethe, on the reaction existence and works of German polymath Johann Goethe.

Elective Affinities
In his 1879 Goethe and Schiller, Boyesen argues that that Ottilie was based on Minna Herzlieb: [1]

“Goethe’s affair with Minna Herzlieb, the adopted daughter of the bookseller Fromman, in Jena, was a kind of poetic devotion, at a time when he was yet bound to another naturally stimulated him to many reflections concerning the nature and validity of marriage, and these reflections, embodied in living characters, furnished the theme of the novel, Elective Affinities.”

In other words, just as Ottilie was the adopted daughter of Charlotte's deceased best friend, so to was Minna the adopted daughter of one of Goethe's friends, the bookseller Fromman, in Jena, with whom Goethe had developed strong amorous feelings towards.

Boyesen had hes reaction start in a little naval station in Fredericksvaern, Norway, wherein, at the Naval Academy, his father was a mathematics professor. After receiving preliminary education at the Christiania Gymnasium, Leipzig, he entered the University of Norway, graduating in 1863. In 1869, he and his brother migrated to New York, eventually settling in Urbana, Ohio. He then moved to Chicago, becoming an editor of a newly-launched Norwegian paper called Fremad. [2] He then made the following move, as he explains in his own words: [3]

“In this [editorial] position I remained about a year and a half, but the ambition to write was strong in m, and I soon saw that if I were to make a reputation as a writer I must master the English language. To this end it was necessary to abandon all Scandinavian associations. I resigned my editorship and accepted a position as tutor in Latin and Greek at the Urbana University.”

Boyesen was a professor of North European languages at Cornell University from 1874 to 1880. He became a professor of Germanic languages and literature at Columbia University in 1881 where he remained till his reaction end. He was a prolific writer, and, over 20 years, published 25 books including novels, short stories, poems, literary criticism, essays, and book reviews in periodicals. He was known as a good public lecturer.

In 2012, American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims began the construction of the online-to-be-made print book publication Elective Affinities: Illustrated and Annotated using Boyesen’s 1885 illustrated translation of Goethe’s 1809 Elective Affinities, as a framework starting point. [4]

The following are related quotes:

“In 1809, Goethe published a book which was a puzzle both to his admirers and his enemies. This was Elective Affinities.
— Hjalmar Boysen (1885), “The Life of Goethe” [5]

“It is difficult to overestimate the value of Goethe’s work to humanity. The bequest which he left to the world in his writings, and in the whole intellectual result of his life, is not as yet appreciated at its full worth; because, intellectually, the world has not yet caught up to him. His influence today asserts itself in a hundred minute ways—even where no one suspects it. The century has received the stamp and impress of his mighty personality. The intellectual currents of the age, swelled and amplified by later tributaries, flow today in the directions which Goethe indicated.”
— Hjalmar Boysen (1885), “The Life of Goethe” [5]

1. Boyesen, Hjalmar H. (1879). Goethe and Schiller: Their Lives and Collected Works (pgs. 120-24). C. Scribner’s Sons.
2. Staff. (1895). “Prof. Hjalmar H. Boyesen Dead: the Scholar and Author Succumbs to Rheumatism of the Heart—Works that Made His Fame”, The New York Time, Oct 5.
3. Boyesen, Hjalmar H. (date). “My Lost Self”, Publisher.
4. Goethe, Johann and Thims, Libb. (2013). Elective Affinities: Illustrated and Annotated. Publisher.
5. Goethe, Johann and Boyesen, Hjalmar B. (1885). Goethe’s Works Illustrated by the Best German Artists, The Life of Goethe, Volume One (§:The Life of Goethe, pgs. v-xxxiv). George Barrie.

Further reading
● Goethe, Johann. (1885). Goethe’s Works, Illustrated by the Best German artists, 5 volumes (by Hjalmar Boyesen) (Volume 5: W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities (Part I, pgs. 231-297; Part II, pgs. 298-369; Index, pg. 371; Index of engravings, pgs. 370-76)). Philadelphia: George Barrie.

External links
Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen – Wikipedia.

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