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Rydberg, Abraham Viktor

RYDBERG, ABRAHAM VIKTOR (1828-1895), Swedish author and publicist, was born in Jonkoping on 18th December 1828. He was educated at the high school of Vaxio, and passed on to the university of Lund in 1851. While at school he was publishing verse and prose in the periodicals; some of these early miscellanies he collected in 1894 in the volumes called Varia. As a student he turned to more precise labours, and devoted himself to science. He had almost determined to adopt the profession of an engineer, when he was offered in 1855 a post on the staff of one of the largest Swedish newspapers. This caused his thoughts to return to imaginative literature, and it was in the feuilleton of this journal (the Goteborgs Handels-och sjofartstidning) that Viktor Rydberg's romances successively appeared; he was editorially connected with it until 1876. The Freebooter on the Baltic (1857) and The Last of the Athenians (1859) gave Rydberg a place in the front rank of contemporary novelists. It was a surprise to his admirers to see him presently turn to theology, but with The Bible's Teaching about Christ (1862), in which the aspects of modern Biblical criticism were first placed before Swedish readers, he enjoyed a vast success. He followed this up by a number of contributions to the popular philosophy of religion, all inspired by the same reverent and yet searching spirit of inquiry. The modernity of his views led to his being opposed by the orthodox clergy, but by the wider public he was greatly esteemed. Nevertheless, it is said that it was his religious criticism which so long excluded him from the Swedish Academy, since he was not elected until 1877, when he had long been the first living author of Sweden. Roman Days is a series of archaeological essays on Italy (1876). He collected his poems in 1882; his version of Faust dates from 1876. In 1884 he was appointed professor of ecclesiastical history at Stockholm. He died, after a short illness, on the 22nd of September 1895. In Viktor Rydberg Sweden possessed a writer of the first order, who carried on the tradition of Bostrom and Geijer in philosophy and history, and possessed in addition a glow of imagination and a marvellous charm of style. He was an idealist of the old romantic type which Sweden had known for threequarters of a century; he was the last of that race, and perhaps, as a mere writer, the greatest. In personal character Rydberg was extremely like his writings stately, ardent and ceremonious, with a fund of amiability which made him universally beloved. His premature death was the subject of national mourning, and had even a historical significance, for with him the old romantic influence in Swedish literature ceased to be paramount. (E. G.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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