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|August (Theodor) Blanche (1811-1868)|
"A Swedish Mr. Pickwick," writer, reformist, and journalist, one of the central novelists of the 1850s in his country. Like Victor Hugo in France, Blanche was an advocate of social reforms and a politician. He admired such persons as Engelbrekt, Napoleon, and Garibaldi, and in Sweden Carl XII. Among Blanche's best known works are Flickan i Stadsgården (1847), depicting the life of students, and Sonen af söder och nord: romantisk skildring fran revolutionen i Paris 1848 (1851, The son of north and south), an expression of the writer's ideals of freedom. Set in Paris during the 1848 uprising, it was his most ambitious novel.
"Jag befarar verkligen, att de ökade läsetimmarna, liksom de ökade läseämnena, numera upptaga så mycken tid, all knappast någon stund blir övrig för barndomens tidsfördriv. Det blir mera skoldamm än skolpilten hinner skaka av sig; han blir så allvarsam, att han nästan glömmer att le, men men att taga bort löjet från barnets läppar, det är detsamma som att stjäla hälsans ros från dess kind, det är att göra gubbar och gummor av barn innan de lämnar jackan och kolten." (from 'Pylax eller den döende hunden')
August Blanche was born in Stockholm outside marriage – his father, Mårten Christoffer Bergvall, was a priest and his mother, Katarina Hedberg, a servant girl. Blanche was brought up by his stepfather Johan Jacob Blanck, a blacksmith, whom his mother married, and whose name Blanche adopted. In 1829 Blanche started his studies in Uppsala and in 1838 he took a degree in law, which began for him a career in the civil service. He worked first as an official and then as a journalist, contributing to several publications, Göteborgs Handelstidning (1839), Stockholms Figaro (1845-47), and Aftonbladet (1855-56). Between the years 1857 and 1863 Blanche published Illustrerad Tidning.
Until 1842 Blanche was the editor of the liberal opposition publication Freja. After becoming economically independent, Blanche devoted himself to literature and made his breakthrough with the play Positivhataren: lustspel med sång (1843). He began to write for the stage at the right moment, and eventually he became the most popular playwright of the mid-nineteeth century. Dramatiska theatre had burned in 1825 and Anders Lindberg's Nya teatern had opened in 1842. Blanche wrote several drama adaptations from French, Austrian, or other sources. En trappa upp och på nedra botten (1843) was based on Johann Nestroy's (1801-1862) text. Magister Bläckstadius eller Giftermåls-annonsen (1844) took its subject from Johan Ludvig Heiberg's (1791-1860) work. Jernbäraren: skådespel i 3 akter och 6 tablåer (1845) was based on his own novel. The protagonist, Axelsson, is a poor worker, who loves his daughter above all. She is seduced and Axelsson kills her seducer and commits suicide. Herr Dardanell och hans upptåg på landet (1845) was an adaptation of Nestroy's work, which had been translated by L.A. Malmgren. Komedianterna eller Ett resande Teatersällskap (1848), drawing on the vaudeville tradition, has held its popularity in repertoire.
As a novelist Blanche was influenced by Eugene Sue and Alexandre Dumas (sr.); Den broderade plånboken (1845, The embroidered wallet) was a social in the spirit of Honore de Balzac. He produced among others such routine novels as the melodramatic Vålnaden (1847), Banditen (1848; Engl. tr. The Bandit, 1872), which had as a background the revolutionary France of 1848, and Första älskarinnan (1848), about a woman torn between two rivals and her rise from humble origins to riches.
Blanche's most enduring works are his short stories, which give a lively picture of everyday life and customs of his time. The four volume Bilder ur verkligheten (1863-65, Pictures from reality) depicted Stockholm and its surroundings. It was a collection of his earlier stories, originally written for Illustrerad Tidning, and appeared under the titles Hyrkuskens betättelser (The tales of the Coachman), his best-known work of fiction, En prästmans anteckningar, En skådespelares äventyr, and Strödda anteckningar. These good-natured short pieces were built around anecdotes, colorful characters, or personal reminiscences. "Det var den härligaste vinterdag. Brunnsviken, snöbetäckt och belyst av solen, prunkade av en blädande glans, och skogarna vid dess stränder, liksom kanderade, gnistrade av ljusets alla färgbrytningar. Det var en sjö av silver med strand och lundar av diamant. Det var som om naturen denna dag velat visa, att hon kan vara lika skön i vintern som i sommaren, lika härlig i döden som i livet." (from 'Theodor Sandström' in Hyrkuskens berättelser)
Blanche was a member of parliament, representing the estate of burgesses from 1859 to 1866, and gained fame with his oratorical skills. He spoke for the abolition of dreath penalty and was in favour of religious freedom in Swerige. Blanche admired King Carl XII, but did not much appreciate Carl XIV Johan and Carl XIII, whom he despised. Blanche died in Stockholm on November 30, 1868. On the same day the statue of Carl XII was revealed – Blanche had also participated in the raising of the monument. The author had a heart attack in connection with the event. Students had decided to honor him with a song, Blanche led them in a procession along Drottninggatan (queen's way), and died suddenly on the street.
For further reading: August Blanche och hans samtid by Nils Erdman (1892); August Blanche som stockholmsskildare by Martin Lamm (1931, second edition 1950), Ny illustrerad svensk litteraturhistoria III, ed. by E.N. Tigerstedt (1967); A History of Swedish Literature, ed. by Lars G. Warme (1996); Den Svenska Litteraturen, Vol. 3, ed. by Lars Lönnroth and Sven Delblanc (1997); Vem är vem i svensk litteratur by Agneta & Lars Erik Blomqvist (1999)