‘The fire crackles and then my muse comes to visit’
Hans Christian Andersen, hygge, and the Victorian fireside
Precise descriptions of fireplaces and fire lighting are common in Hans Christian Andersen’s writing, often in the form of terse and realistic background details. There are, however, a few examples of a more figurative use of fire where Andersen employs the motif of ‘seeing figures in the flames’ and suggests that he considered this experience inspirational in his writing. The motif was a favorite in Britain, where an open fire in the household was still common in the 19th century. Unlike most continental Europeans at the time, the Victorians considered ‘the fire-side’ to be a sphere of special importance in domestic life. The suggestive qualities associated with the fireside in Britain at the time would not have been familiar to Andersen, but in many respects the cultural complex of the fireside served the same functions as Danish hygge. It is unlikely that Andersen was aware of it, but the figurative use that he made of fire as a force of inspiration both magical and hyggelig had special resonance for the Victorians.
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