Copyright, 1907, by Charles Scribner’s Sons. *_Ibsen and Bjornson_. London, Heinmann, 1899, p.88
THE AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
I wrote The Feast at Solhoug in Bergen in the summer of 1855—that is to say, about twenty-eight years ago.
The play was acted for the first time on January 2, 1856, also at Bergen, as a gala performance on the anniversary of the foundation of the Norwegian Stage.
As I was then stage-manager of the Bergen Theatre, it was I myself who conducted the rehearsals of my play. It received an excellent, a remarkably sympathetic interpretation. Acted with pleasure and enthusiasm, it was received in the same spirit. The “Bergen emotionalism,” which is said to have decided the result of the latest elections in those parts, ran high that evening in the crowded theatre. The performance ended with repeated calls for the author and for the actors. Later in the evening I was serenaded by the orchestra, accompanied by a great part of the audience. I almost think that I went so far as to make some kind of speech from my window; certain I am that I felt extremely happy.
A couple of months later, The Feast of Solhoug was played in Christiania. There also it was received by the public with much approbation, and the day after the first performance Bjornson wrote a friendly, youthfully ardent article on it in the Morgenblad. It was not a notice or criticism proper, but rather a free, fanciful improvisation on the play and the performance.
On this, however, followed the real criticism, written by the real critics.
How did a man in the Christiania of those days—by which I mean the years between 1850 and 1860, or thereabouts—become a real literary, and in particular dramatic, critic?
As a rule, the process was as follows: After some preparatory exercises in the columns of the Samfundsblad, and after the play, the future critic betook himself to Johan Dahl’s bookshop and ordered from Copenhagen a copy of J. L. Heiberg’s Prose Works, among which was to be found—so he had heard it said—an essay entitled On the Vaudeville. This essay was in due course read, ruminated on, and possibly to a certain extent understood. From Heiberg’s writings the young man, moreover, learned of a controversy which that author had carried on in his day with Professor Oehlenschlager and with the Soro poet, Hauch. And he was simultaneously made aware that J. L. Baggesen (the author of Letters from the Dead) had at a still earlier period made a similar attack on the great author who wrote both Axel and Valborg and Hakon Jarl.
A quantity of other information useful to a critic was to be extracted from these writings. From them one learned, for instance, that taste obliged a good critic to be scandalised by a hiatus. Did the young critical Jeronimuses of Christiania encounter such a monstrosity in any new verse, they were as certain as their prototype in Holberg to shout their “Hoity-toity! the world will not last till Easter!”