August Strindberg.

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Produced by David Starner, Marc D'Hooghe, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team


By August Strindberg






















Strindberg's works in English translation: Plays translated by Edwin
Bjorkman; _Master Olof_, American Scandinavian Foundation, 1915; _The
Dream Play, The Link, The Dance of Death_, New York, Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1912; _Swanwhite, Simoon, Debit and Credit, Advent,
The Thunderstorm, After the Fire,_ the same, 1913; _There Are Crimes
and Crimes, Miss Julia, The Stronger, Creditors, Pariah_, the same,
1913; Bridal Crown, _The Spook Sonata, The First Warning, Gustavus
Vasa_, the same, 1916. Plays translated by Edith and Warner Oland,
Boston Luce & Co., Vol. I (1912), _The Father, Countess Julie, The
Stronger, The Outlaw_; Vol. II (1912), _Facing Death, Easter, Pariah,
Comrades_; Vol. III (1914), _Swanwhite, Advent, The Storm, Lucky Pehr_,
tr. by Velma Swanston Howard, Cincinnati, Stewart & Kidd Co., 1912.
_The Red Room_, tr. by Ellie Schleussner, New York, Putnam's, 1913;
_Confession of a Fool_, tr. by S. Swift, London, F. Palmer, 1912; _The
German Lieutenant and Other Stories_, Chicago, A. C. McClurg & Co.,
1915; _In Midsummer Days and Other Tales_, tr. by Ellie Schleussner,
London, H. Latimer, 1913; _Motherlove_, tr. by Francis J. Ziegler,
Philadelphia, Brown Bros., 2nd ed., 1916, _On the Seaboard_, tr. by
Elizabeth Clarke Westergren, Cincinnati, Stewart & Kidd Co., 1913;
_The Son of a Servant_, tr. by. Claud Field, introduction by Henry
Vacher-Burch, New York, Putnam's, 1913; _The Growth of a Soul_, tr. by
Claud Field, London, W. Rider & Co., 1913; _The Inferno_, tr. by Claud
Field, New York, Putnam's, 1913; _Legends, Autobiographical Sketches_,
London, A. Melrose, 1912; _Zones of the Spirit_, tr. by Claud Field,
introduction by Arthur Babillotte, London, G. Allen & Co.


These stories originally appeared in two volumes, the first in 1884,
the second in 1886. The latter part of the present edition is thus
separated from the first part by a lapse of two years.

Strindberg's views were continually undergoing changes. Constancy was
never a trait of his. He himself tells us that opinions are but the
reflection of a man's experiences, changing as his experiences change.
In the two years following the publication of the first volume,
Strindberg's experiences were such as to exercise a decisive influence
on his views on the woman question and to transmute his early
predisposition to woman-hating from a passive tendency to a positive,
active force in his character and writing.

Strindberg's art in _Married_ is of the propagandist, of the fighter
for a cause. He has a lesson to convey and he makes frankly for his
goal without attempting to conceal his purpose under the gloss of
"pure" art. He chooses the story form in preference to the treatise as
a more powerful medium to drive home his ideas. That the result has
proved successful is due to the happy admixture in Strindberg of
thinker and artist. His artist's sense never permitted him to distort
or misrepresent the truth for the sake of proving his theories. In
fact, he arrived at his theories not as a scholar through the study of
books, but as an artist through the experience of life. When life had
impressed upon him what seemed to him a truth, he then applied his
intellect to it to bolster up that truth. Hence it is that, however
opinionated Strindberg may at times seem, his writings carry that
conviction which we receive only when the author reproduces' truths he
has obtained first-hand from life. One-sided he may occasionally be in
_Married_, especially in the later stories, but rarely unfaithful. His
manner is often to throw such a glaring searchlight upon one spot of
life that all the rest of it stays in darkness; but the places he does
show up are never unimportant or trivial. They are well worth seeing
with Strindberg's brilliant illumination thrown upon them.

August Strindberg has left a remarkably rich record of his life in
various works, especially in his autobiographical series of novels. He
was born in 1849 in Stockholm. His was a sad childhood passed in
extreme poverty. He succeeded in entering the University of Upsala in
1867, but was forced for a time on account of lack of means to
interrupt his studies. He tried his fortune as schoolmaster, actor,
and journalist and made an attempt to study medicine. All the while he
was active in a literary way, composing his first plays in 1869. In
1874 he obtained a position in the Royal Library, where he devoted
himself to scientific studies, learned Chinese in order to catalogue
the Chinese manuscripts, and wrote an erudite monograph which was read
at the Academy of Inscriptions in Paris.

His first important literary productions were the drama _Master Olof_
(1878) and the novel _The Red Room_ (1879). Disheartened by the
failure of _Master Olof_, he gave up literature for a long time. When
he returned to it, he displayed an amazing productivity. Work followed
work in quick succession - novels, short stories, dramas, histories,
historical studies, and essays. _The Swedish People_ is said to be the
most popular book in Sweden next to the Bible. The mere enumeration of
his writings would occupy more than two pages. His versatility led him
to make researches in physics and chemistry and natural science and to
write on those subjects.

Through works like _The Red Room_, _Married_, and the dramas _The
Father_ and _Miss Julia_, Strindberg attached himself to the
naturalistic school of literature. Another period of literary
inactivity followed, during which he passed through a mental crisis
akin to insanity. When he returned to the writing of novels and dramas
he was no longer a naturalist, but a symbolist and mystic. Among the
plays he composed in this style are _To Damascus_, _The Dream Play_,
and _The Great Highway_.

Strindberg married three times, divorced his first two wives, but
separated amicably from the third. He died in 1913. The vast
demonstration at his funeral, attended by the laboring classes as well
as by the "upper" classes, proved that, in spite of the antagonisms he
had aroused, Sweden unanimously awarded him the highest place in her



He had just completed his thirteenth year when his mother died. He
felt that he had lost a real friend, for during the twelve months of
her illness he had come to know her personally, as it were, and
established a relationship between them which is rare between parents
and children. He was a clever boy and had developed early; he had read
a great many books besides his schoolbooks, for his father, a
professor of botany at the Academy of Science, possessed a very good
library. His mother, on the other hand, was not a well-educated woman;
she had merely been head housekeeper and children's nurse in her
husband's house. Numerous births and countless vigils (she had not
slept through a single night for the last sixteen years), had
exhausted her strength, and when she became bedridden, at the age of
thirty-nine, and was no longer able to look after her house, she made
the acquaintance of her second son; her eldest boy was at a military
school and only at home during the week ends. Now that her part as
mother of the family was played to the end and nothing remained of her
but a poor invalid, the old-fashioned relationship of strict discipline,
that barrier between parents and children, was superseded.
The thirteen-year-old son was almost constantly at her bedside,
reading to her whenever he was not at school or doing home lessons.
She had many questions to ask and he had a great deal to explain, and
therefore all those distinguishing marks erected by age and position
vanished, one after the other: if there was a superior at all, it was
the son. But the mother, too, had much to teach, for she had learnt
her lessons in the school of life; and so they were alternately
teacher and pupil. They discussed all subjects. With the tact of a
mother and the modesty of the other sex she told her son all he ought
to know of the mystery of life. He was still innocent, but he had
heard many things discussed by the boys at school which had shocked
and disgusted him. The mother explained to him all she could explain;
warned him of the greatest danger to a young man, and exacted a
promise from him never to visit a house of ill-fame, not even out of
curiosity, because, as she pointed out, in such a case no man could
ever trust himself. And she implored him to live a temperate life, and
turn to God in prayer whenever temptation assaulted him.

His father was entirely devoted to science, which was a sealed book to
his wife. When the mother was already on the point of death, he made a
discovery which he hoped would make his name immortal in the scientific
world. He discovered, on a rubbish heap, outside the gates of Stockholm,
a new kind of goose-foot with curved hairs on the usually straight-haired
calyx. He was in communication with the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and
the latter was even now considering the advisability of including the new
variety in the "Flora Germanica"; he was daily expecting to hear whether
or not the Academy had decided to immortalise his name by calling the
plant Chenopodium Wennerstroemianium. At his wife's death-bed he was
absentminded, almost unkind, for he had just received an answer in the
affirmative, and he fretted because neither he nor his wife could enjoy
the great news. She thought only of heaven and her children. He could not
help realising that to talk to her now of a calyx with curved hairs would
be the height of absurdity; but, he justified himself, it was not so
much a question of a calyx with straight or curved hairs, as of a
scientific discovery; and, more than that, it was a question of his
future and the future of his children, for their father's distinction
meant bread for them.

When his wife died on the following evening, he cried bitterly; he had
not shed a tear for many years. He was tortured by remorse, remembered
even the tiniest wrong he had ever done her, for he had been, on the
whole, an exemplary husband; his indifference, his absent-mindedness
of the previous day, filled him with shame and regret, and in a moment
of blankness he realised all the pettishness and selfishness of his
science which, he had imagined, was benefiting mankind. But these
emotions were short-lived; if you open a door with a spring behind it,
it will close again immediately. On the following morning, after he
had drawn up an announcement of her death for the papers, he wrote a
letter of thanks to the Berlin Academy of Sciences. After that he
resumed his work.

When he came home to dinner, he longed for his wife, so that he might
tell her of his success, for she had always been his truest friend,
the only human being who had never been jealous or envious. Now he
missed this loyal companion on whose approval he could count as a
matter of course; never once had she contradicted him, for since he
never told her more than the practical result of his researches, there
was no room for argument. For a moment the thought occurred to him
that he might make friends with his son; but they knew each other too
little; their relationship was that of officer and private soldier.
His superior rank did not permit him to make advances; moreover, he
regarded the boy with suspicion, because the latter possessed a keener
intellect and had read a number of new books which were unknown to
him; occasionally it even happened that the father, the professor,
plainly revealed his ignorance to his son, the school-boy. In such
cases the father was either compelled to dismiss the argument, with a
few contemptuous remarks to "these new follies," or peremptorily order
the school-boy to attend to his lessons. Once or twice, in self-defence,
the son had produced one or other of his school-books; the professor
had lost his temper and wished the new school-books to hell.

And so it came about that the father devoted himself to his
collections of dried plants and the son went his own way.

They lived in a quiet street to the left of the Observatory, in a
small, one-storey house, built of bricks, and surrounded by a large
garden; the garden was once the property of the Horticultural Society,
and had come into the professor's possession by inheritance. But since
he studied descriptive botany, and took no interest in the much more
interesting subjects of the physiology and morphology of plants, a
science which was as good as unknown in his youth, he was practically
a stranger to living nature. He allowed the garden with its many
splendours to become a wilderness, and finally let it to a gardener on
condition that he and his children should be allowed certain
privileges. The son used the garden as a park and enjoyed its beauty
as he found it, without taking the trouble to try and understand it

One might compare the boy's character to an ill-proportioned
compensation pendulum; it contained too much of the soft metal of the
mother, not enough of the hard metal of the father. Friction and
irregular oscillations were the natural consequences. Now he was full
of sentiment, now hard and sceptical. His mother's death affected him
beyond words. He mourned her deeply, and she always lived in his memory
as the personification of all that was good and great and beautiful.

He wasted the summer following her death in brooding and novel-reading.
Grief, and to no small extent idleness, had shaken his whole nervous
system and quickened his imagination. His tears had been like warm April
showers falling on fruit trees, wakening them to a precocious burgeoning:
but alas! only too often the blossoms are doomed to wither and perish in
a frosty May night, before the fruit has had time to set.

He was fifteen years old and had therefore arrived at the age when
civilised man attains to manhood and is ripe to give life to a new
generation, but is prevented from doing so by his inability to
maintain a family. Consequently he was about to begin the ten years'
martyrdom which a young man is called upon to endure in the struggle
against an overwhelming force of nature, before he is in a position to
fulfil her laws.

* * * * *

It is a warm afternoon about Whitsuntide. The appletrees are gorgeous
in their white splendour which nature has showered all over them with
a profuse hand. The breeze shakes the crowns and fills the air with
pollen; a part of it fulfils its destination and creates new life, a
part sinks to the ground and dies. What is a handful of pollen more or
less in the inexhaustible store-house of nature! The fertilised blossom
casts off its delicate petals which flutter to the ground and wither;
they decay in the rain and are ground to dust, to rise again through the
sap and re-appear as blossoms, and this time, perhaps, to become fruit.
But now the struggle begins: those which a kind fate has placed on the
sunny side, thrive and prosper; the seed bud swells, and if no frost
intervenes, the fruit, in due time, will set. But those which look
towards the North, the poor things which grow in the shadow of the
others and never see the sun, are predestined to fade and fall off;
the gardener rakes them together and carts them to the pig-sty.

Behold the apple-tree now, its branches laden with half-ripe fruit,
little, round, golden apples with rosy cheeks. A fresh struggle
begins: if all remain alive, the branches will not be able to bear
their weight, the tree will perish. A gale shakes the branches. It
requires firm stems to hold on. Woe to the weaklings! they are
condemned to destruction.

A fresh danger! The apple-weevil appears upon the scene. It, too, has
to maintain life and to fulfil a duty towards its progeny. The grub
eats its way through the fruit to the stem and the apple falls to the
ground. But the dainty beetle chooses the strongest and soundest for
its brood, otherwise too many of the strong ones would be allowed to
live, and competition would become over-keen.

The hour of twilight, the gathering dusk, arouses the passionate
instincts of the beast-world. The night-crow crouches on the newly-dug
flower-bed to lure its mate. Which of the eager males shall carry the
prize? Let them decide the question!

The cat, sleek and warm, fresh from her evening milk, steals away from
her corner by the hearth and picks her way carefully among daffodils
and lilies, afraid lest the dew make her coat damp and ragged before
her lover joins her. She sniffs at the young lavender and calls. Her
call is answered by the black tom-cat which appears, broad-backed like
a marten, on the neighbour's fence; but the gardener's tortoise-shell
approaches from the cow-shed and the fight begins. Handfuls of the
rich, black soil are flying about in all directions, and the
newly-planted radishes and spinach plants are roughly awakened from
their quiet sleep and dreams of the future. The stronger of the two
remains in possession of the field, and the female awaits complacently
the frenetic embraces of the victor. The vanquished flies to engage in
a new struggle in which, perhaps, victory will smile on him.

Nature smiles, content, for she knows of no other sin than the sin
against her law; she is on the side of the strong for her desire is
for strong children, even though she should have to kill the "eternal
ego" of the insignificant individual. And there is no prudery, no
hesitation, no fear of consequences, for nature has plenty of food for
all her children - except mankind.

* * * * *

After supper he went for a walk in the garden while his father sat
down at his bed-room window to smoke a pipe and read the evening
paper. He strolled along the paths, revelling in the delicious odours
which a plant only exhales when it is in full bloom, and which is the
finest and strongest extract of etheric oils, containing in a
condensed form the full strength of the individual, destined to become
the representative of the species. He listened to the nuptial song of
the insects above the lime trees, which rings in our ears like a
funeral dirge: he heard the purring call of the night-crow; the ardent
mewing of the cat, which sounds as if death, and not life, were
wooing; the humming note of the dung-beetle, the fluttering of the
large moths, the thin peeping of the bats.

He stopped before a bed of narcissus, gathered one of the while,
starry flowers, and inhaled its perfume until he felt the blood
hammering in his temples. He had never examined this flower minutely.
But during the last term they had read Ovid's story of Narcissus. He
had not discovered a deeper meaning in the legend. What did it mean,
this story of a youth who, from unrequited love, turned his ardour
upon himself and was consumed by the flame when he fell in love with
his own likeness seen in a well? As he stood, examining the white,
cup-shaped petals, pale as the cheeks of an invalid with fine red
lines such as one may see in the faces of consumptives when a pitiless
cough forces the blood into the extremest and tiniest blood-vessels,
he thought of a school-fellow, a young aristocrat, who was a
midshipman now; he looked like that.

When he had inhaled the scent of the flower for some time, the strong
odour of cloves disappeared and left but a disagreeable, soapy smell
which made him feel sick.

He sauntered on to where the path turned to the right and finally lost
itself in an avenue planted on both sides with elm-trees whose branches
had grown together and formed an arch overhead. In the semi-darkness,
far down the perspective, he could see a large green swing, suspended
by ropes, slowly moving backwards and forwards. A girl stood on the
back board, gently swinging herself by bending her knees and throwing
her body forward, while she clung, with arms raised high above her head,
to the ropes at her side. He recognised the gardener's daughter, a girl
who had been confirmed last Easter and had just begun to wear long
skirts. To-night, however, she was dressed in one of her old dresses
which barely reached to her ankles.

The sight of the young man embarrassed her, for she remembered the
shortness of her skirt, but she nevertheless remained on the swing. He
advanced and looked at her.

"Go away, Mr. Theodore," said the girl, giving the swing a vigorous

"Why should I?" answered the youth, who felt the draught of her
fluttering skirts on his throbbing temples.

"Because I want you to," said the girl.

"Let me come up, too, and I'll swing you, Gussie," pleaded Theodore,
springing on to the board.

Now he was standing on the swing, facing her. And when they rose into
the air, he felt her skirts flapping against his legs, and when they
descended, he bent over her and looked into her eyes which were
brilliant with fear and enjoyment. Her thin cotton blouse fitted
tightly and showed every line of her young figure; her smiling lips
were half-open, displaying two rows of sound white teeth, which looked
as if they would like to bite or kiss him.

Higher and higher rose the swing, until it struck the topmost branches
of the maple. The girl screamed and fell forward, into his arms; he
was pushed over, on to the seat. The trembling of the soft warm body
which nestled closely in his arms, sent an electric shock through his
whole nervous system; a black veil descended before his eyes and he
would have let her go if her left shoulder had not been tightly
pressed against his right arm.

The speed of the swing slackened. She rose and sat on the seat facing
him. And thus they remained with downcast eyes, not daring to look one
another in the face.

When the swing stopped, the girl slipped off the seat and ran away as
if she were answering a call. Theodore was left alone. He felt the
blood surging in his veins. It seemed to him that his strength was
redoubled. But he could not grasp what had happened. He vaguely
conceived himself as an electrophor whose positive electricity, in
discharging, had combined with the negative. It had happened during a
quite ordinary, to all appearances chaste, contact with a young woman.
He had never felt the same emotion in wrestling, for instance, with
his school-fellows in the play-ground. He had come into contact with
the opposite polarity of the female sex and now he knew what it meant
to be a man. For he was a man, not a precocious boy, kicking over the
traces; he was a strong, hardy, healthy youth.

As he strolled along, up and down the garden paths, new thoughts
formed in his brain. Life looked at him with graver eyes, he felt
conscious of a sense of duty. But he was only fifteen years old. He
was not yet confirmed and many years would have to elapse before he
would be considered an independent member of the community, before he
would be able to earn a living for himself, let alone maintain a wife
and family. He took life seriously, the thought of light adventures
never occurred to him. Women were to him something sacred, his
opposite pole, the supplement and completion of himself. He was mature
now, bodily and mentally, fit to enter the arena of life and fight his
way. What prevented him from doing so? His education, which had taught
him nothing useful; his social position, which stood between him and a
trade he might have learned. The Church, which had not yet received
his vow of loyalty to her priests; the State, which was still waiting
for his oath of allegiance to Bernadotte and Nassau; the School, which
had not yet trained him sufficiently to consider him ripe for the
University; the secret alliance of the upper against the lower
classes. A whole mountain of follies lay on him and his young
strength. Now that he knew himself to be a man, the whole system of
education seemed to him an institution for the mutilation of body and
soul. They must both be mutilated before he could be allowed to enter
the harem of the world, where manhood is considered a danger; he could
find no other excuse for it. And thus he sank back into his former
state of immaturity. He compared himself to a celery plant, tied up
and put under a flower-pot so as to make it as white and soft as

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Online LibraryAugust StrindbergMarried → online text (page 1 of 19)