— sadie (@Sadie_ATL) September 16, 2022
Not sure I could sit through a whole movie, but there’s certainly material for one. Olivia Rutigliano explains that “Charles Dickens really, really hated his fanboy Hans Christian Andersen”:
… [I]n March of 1857, Andersen earnestly wrote to Dickens to say that he was traveling to England, for no more than a fortnight, to take Dickens up on his offer. And so, in June of that year, Andersen showed up to Gad’s Hill, Dickens’s country estate in Higham, ready to become roommates with his hero. “My visit is for you alone,” he wrote. “Above all, always leave me a small corner in your heart.”
(If it weren’t for the fact that Andersen seems kind of cluelessly sweet, this would sound like horror movie. I’ve definitely seen this horror movie.)
Although the Dickens family was expecting him, in a way, they could have never expected him. Andersen, socially awkward and apparently one of the nineteenth century’s premier literary softbois, was not good at picking up on social cues or maintaining any kind of formal demeanor, demanding in one way or the other that he remain the center of attention. When he arrived, he asked that one of Dickens’s own sons give him a daily shave, explaining that this was a custom for hosting male guests in Denmark. Weirded out, Dickens made him a daily appointment at a nearby barbershop instead. One night, during a dinner, when Dickens held an arm out to one of the ladies present, Anderson scooted over and grabbed it himself, and walked with Dickens arm-in-arm into the dining room. Which is not even to mention the fact that he stayed for three weeks longer than he had originally proposed.
Now, this was a particularly bad time for Dickens to have any (let alone such an oblivious) houseguest—Little Dorritt was not doing so well critically, and he was attempting to leave his wife for a woman half his age. Plus, he was acting in a play—his friend Wilkie Collins’s play The Frozen Deep. So, he was clearly a busy man, doing many important things.
Then again, Andersen was difficult to be around. At the premiere of The Frozen Deep (with Dickens in the leading role and Queen Victoria in the audience), he loudly burst into tears. Afterwards, he apparently sulked because his presence at the event was not noted more highly. And when he learned that one of his pieces received a negative review, he hurled himself down on the Dickens family lawn and passionately wept. Despite this spectacle, Dickens’s daughter Kate called him “a bony bore.”
It is speculated by some that Dickens may have based his gaunt, obsequious character Uriah Heap on his guest. It is assumed that Anderson based his character of the Ugly Duckling on himself…