Carl Jonas Love Almqvist

Carl Jonas Love Almqvist
Painted by Almqvist, 1823

Carl Jonas Love Ludvig Almqvist (28 November 1793, Stockholm, Sweden 26 September 1866, Bremen, Germany), was a romantic poet, early feminist, realist, composer, social critic, and traveller.


He was the son of the army paymaster Karl Gustav Almqvist (1768–1846). He studied in Uppsala and was then worked as a clerk in Stockholm. In 1823 he gave up his post, and in the autumn of the year after moved to Köla in northern Värmland where he and some friends, inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, intended to live out a rural idyll. It was there that he married and had two children. In 1828 he became a teacher at the experimental New Elementary School, Stockholm, and he was rector at the same from 1829 to 1841. Almqvist was ordained as pastor in 1837, but could not find work, and after publishing Det går an in 1839 gave up that career altogether and supported himself by working for various newspapers (including Aftonbladet and Jönköpingsbladet). He was involved in controversy with August Blanche in the "Det-går-an battle"; Almqvist asserted that Blanche was of illegitimate birth, Blanche challenged Almqvist to a duel and when Almqvist paid no attention, August Blanche spat in his face at a meeting at the Strömparterren.

In June 1851 Almqvist fled Sweden on suspicion of fraud and poisoning attempts against the elderly usurer Johan Jacob von Scheven, to whom he owed 18000 riksdaler. The accusation was based on the testimony of Amanda Brandt among others. He arrived in the United States at the end of August and travelled widely under the name Lewis Gustawi. In Philadelphia, on the third anniversary of his departure from Stockholm, he bigamously married a 69-year-old guest-house proprietress, Emma Nugent. In 1865 Almqvist tried to return to Sweden, but only got as far as Bremen, where he died. Carl Jonas Love Almqvist's younger half-brother, the Director-General Gustavus Fridolf Almquist (1814–1886), was the grandfather of Dag Hammarskjöld.

He wrote many books and poems. Some dealt with his radical views on society and politics; in his novel Drottningens juvelsmycke, his main character, Tintomara, is neither male nor female, and arouses both men and women to fall in love, and in his novel Det går an (It is acceptable), a woman lives with a man without being married to him. These books caused the church and state to condemn him and call him a dangerous revolutionary. However, he still maintained influence with his writings, and he is counted as one of the foremost Swedish social reformers of the 19th century.


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Many of his writings are included in the long series Törnrosens bok ("Book of the Briar Rose", 1833–51). Some of his musical compositions have been recorded.

Sara Videbeck

Sara Videbeck and the Chapel is the English translation of Almqvist's most famous work, whose Swedish title is Det går an (lit. "It will do"). In it, a sergeant named Albert falls in love with Sara Videbeck, a glazier's daughter, during a steamboat trip between Stockholm and Lidköping. Sara is interested but outlines an egalitarian marriage without a formal wedding ceremony and without shared property. The novel ends with her asking, "Will this all do, Albert?" ("Går allt detta an, Albert?"), and his answer, "It will do" ("Det går an" ). The novel is primarily an attack on lifelong marriage as an institution and the inability of women to become financially independent. The book's social tendency aroused lively debate and "det-går-an literature" became a concept. (Fredrika Bremer's contribution was the 1843 A Diary.) The controversy over the work, however, forced Almqvist out of his post as rector at the New Elementary School, Stockholm.


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