Abraham Viktor Rydberg (REED-behrg), born at Jönköping into a lower-class Swedish family on December 18, 1828, had a difficult childhood. It may have been this difficult time that turned him toward his later Romantic writing. Influenced in his early youth by contemporary liberalism, he studied at the University of Lund and in 1854 turned to journalism.
In 1855 he joined the staff of the leading newspaper of the city of Góteborg, and his romantic novels first appeared as serials in the columns of this newspaper. The first of these works, The Freebooter of the Baltic, won him some acclaim; it contains evidences of the idealism that was to be more fully developed in his later novels. Of his novels, The Last Athenian is the most famous. By the time it appeared in 1859, Rydberg was generally regarded in the first rank of Swedish novelists.
Turning to religion, he produced the first Swedish modern critical study of the Bible, Bibelns lära om Kristus (the Bible’s teaching about Christ). Besides his work in the novel and in theological criticism he produced a great deal of material in the fields of aesthetics, philosophy, and psychology. His translation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust in 1876 shows the profound influence that the earlier German writer had upon Rydberg’s Romanticism. Rydberg appeared on the Swedish literary scene after a relatively barren period. Historically, he was one of the last of the Romantics and certainly one of the few idealists of the period.