That Johan Ludvig Heiberg became a writer whose major concerns were with artistic form rather than with content may have been the result of an event that occurred when he was only nine years old. In 1800, Peter Andreas Heiberg, Johan Ludvig Heiberg’s father, was sent into exile by royal decree. The elder Heiberg was a passionate opponent of the Danish absolute monarchy and a caustic wit who used the relative freedom of expression to vent his republican views. In response to the elder Heiberg’s writings, King Frederik VI introduced tight censorship and exiled the writer. When the elder Heiberg left Denmark to live the remainder of his life in Paris, he left his wife and young Johan Ludvig behind. One can assume that this had a profound impact on the young boy’s outlook on the world.
Actually, Johan Ludvig Heiberg, who was born in Copenhagen on December 14, 1791, lived to see both the most stringent censorship that Denmark has had in its history and the total abolition of censorship when Denmark changed from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy in 1849. Yet he never became involved in the political tempest that raged during most of his productive years. Never identified with any particular political or social point of view, he stuck to his Hegelian aesthetics and a Romantic concern with the national heritage. If a political interest emerges from Heiberg’s writings at all, it is a Hegelian one that focuses on the individual rather than on classes or social groups.
The young Heiberg was not much interested in school, probably because his childhood after his father’s departure for Paris became a constant pilgrimage from home to home. His mother divorced his father and was remarried. The father was awarded the boy and...
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