Our meeting was on a lovely afternoon of summer, and the odor of the professor’s roses stole in at the open windows, and became part of the gentle event. Boyesen walked home with me, and for a fortnight after I think we parted only to dream of the literature which we poured out upon each other in every waking moment. I had just learned to know Bjornson’s stories, and Boyesen told me of his poetry and of his drama, which in even measure embodied the great Norse literary movement, and filled me with the wonder and delight of that noble revolt against convention, that brave return to nature and the springs of poetry in the heart and the speech of the common people. Literature was Boyesen’s religion more than the Swedenborgian philosophy in which we had both been spiritually nurtured, and at every step of our mounting friendship we found ourselves on common ground in our worship of it. I was a decade his senior, but at thirty-five I was not yet so stricken in years as not to be able fully to rejoice in the ardor which fused his whole being in an incandescent poetic mass. I have known no man who loved poetry more generously and passionately; and I think he was above all things a poet. His work took the shape of scholarship, fiction, criticism, but poetry gave it all a touch of grace and beauty. Some years after this first meeting of ours I remember a pathetic moment with him, when I asked him why he had not written any verse of late, and he answered, as if still in sad astonishment at the fact, that he had found life was not all poetry. In those earlier days I believe he really thought it was!
Perhaps it really is, and certainly in the course of a life that stretched almost to half a century Boyesen learned more and more to see the poetry of the everyday world at least as the material of art. He did battle valiantly for that belief in many polemics, which I suppose gave people a sufficiently false notion of him; and he showed his faith by works in fiction which better illustrated his motive. Gunnar stands at the beginning of these works, and at the farthest remove from it in matter and method stands ‘The Mammon of Unrighteousness’. The lovely idyl won him fame and friendship, and the great novel added neither to him, though he had put the experience and the observation of his ripened life into it. Whether it is too late or too early for it to win the place in literature which it merits I do not know; but it always seemed to me the very spite of fate that it should have failed of popular effect. Yet I must own that it has so failed, and I own this without bitterness towards Gunnar, which embalmed the spirit of his youth as ’The Mammon of Unrighteousness’ embodied the thought of his manhood.