New York, August 4, 1870.
During a recent visit to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, it was my good fortune to meet the world renowned poet and story-writer, Hans Christian Andersen. I remember well how in my early childhood, I had been affected by his poem. "The Dying Child", and my admiration for him increased with my years; especially when he became such a great source of delight and improvement to my flock of children, and probably one of the most effective means of preserving and increasing their interest in my dear little native land, - Denmark. It was therefore a happy surprise, indeed, when I met him at a dinner party given by General Raaslöff, and, for the first time in my life, stood hand in hand and face to face with that noble, gifted man, who, while par excellence the children's author, is himself a child in earnestness, simplicity, and tenderness of heart and manners. Mr. Andersen is tall and somewhat slim, and notwithstanding his sixty-five years, as hearty, strong, and elastic as an ordinary man of forty. I could perceive scarcely any silver in his locks, and his eyes shone with the brightness and life of youth, and with an expression of mingled tenderness and humour that went to the very heart. He was greatly delighted at hearing how widely his works were read and appreciated in America, and regretted that he could not sufficiently overcome his aversion to the sea, to pay a visit to what he considers the World's Fairy-land. After dinner he read some of his latest stories to us, and I felt how far I had been from heretofore fully appreciating his wonderful genius. It was a scene worth remembering. As he sat at the window in the beautiful Danish twilight, his face half turned away from us, holding the book in his left hand, and gesticulating with the right, and reading with a voice and expression that brought out so many hidden meanings; he seemed to me the very embodiment of refined, graceful simplicity, and earnest, loving truthfulness, and reminded me exceedingly of his friend, and brother-spirit, - the master writer and lecturer, - Charles Dickens. The next day he called upon me at the hotel, and kindly yielded to our request for some more stories. At parting, he presented my daughter with the last volume of his works, and gave me his portrait, inscribed as follows, "Life is the most beautiful fairy tale after all." During the summer, when not travelling on the Continent, Mr. Andersen is usually the welcome guest at the country mansion of some family or other of the Danish nobility; and that same evening he started on a visit to Basnøe manor, in the southern part of Seeland. From there he wrote me the following letter, in publishing which you will aid me materially in executing the commission with which he charges me: