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Reviewed by:
  • Ljungblommor
  • George C. Schoolfield
Zacharias Topelius . Ljungblommor. Utgiven av Carola Herberts under medverken av Clas Zilliacus. (Topelius, Skrifter I.) Helsingfors: SLF & Stockholm: Atlantis, 2010. Pp. 567.

The funeral of Zacharias Topelius, in March, 1898, was the biggest Helsingfors-Helsinki had ever seen. In Runar Schildt's story, "Akilleshälen" (1912, The Achilles Heel), a crone noisily counts the carriages in the cortege of an (unnamed) senator: "fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine"; but someone in the crowd yells: "Yes ... but Tupelius [sic, the accent doubtless on the first syllable] had one hundred and forty-six." Some seventy years later (1967), Gunnar Tideström wrote that Topelius's reputation had much declined from the age when the Samlade skrifter in thirty-four volumes (1899-1907, 1920-1922) were a heavyweight in the Bonniers catalogue: "inte ens hans lyrik har förmodligen nu särdeles måxnga läsare" (not even his lyric probably has very many readers nowadays). Yet, in 1970, Olof Enckell rode to the rescue with 120 dikter, a florilegium of the best Topelius poems with a commentary couched in a constantly informative narrative. The reviewer has used Enckell's selection ever since.

One of the weaknesses of the old Samlade skrifter was the lack of apparatus, another that it did not include the graphomaniacal Topelius's many non-belletristic works. Over the years, some of these have been made accessible by helpful hands. Torsten Steinby edited Anteckninger fråxn det Helsingfors som gåxtt (1968; Sketches from Helsingfors of the Past). Clas Zilliacus provided a good part of the Leopoldinerbrev (2003, Leopoldine Letters), feigned reports in Topelius's newspaper, Helsingfors Tidningar, to a Finlander serving with the Czar's army in "Grusia," the southern reaches of the Empire, Transcaucasia or Georgia. Leopold was eventually replaced by his female cousine, Leopoldine, in Sitka, Alaska. (Professor Zilliacus knew the lay of the newspaper land; in conjunction with Henrik Knif, he had written Opinionens tryck: En studie över pressens bildningsskede i Finland (1985; The Pressure of Opinion: A Study of the Press's Formative Period in Finland), devoting a chapter to the topical and often very amusing "correspondence." In 2004, Rainer Knapas edited Finlands krönika: 1860-1878, Topelius's hitherto unpublished semi-diary; in 2006, Carola Herberts and Laura Mattsson gave the waiting world Ephemerer: Zacharias Topelius första tidning 1834-1835 (Ephemerides: ZT's First Newspaper), handwritten by the teenaged Zachris; in 2009, Hannele Savelainen put together Zacharias Topelius i bild: Människan, porträtten och sinnebilderna (ZT in Pictures: The Man, the Portraits and the Images). Savelainen's rousing finale tells the tale of the feud, in 1932, between supporters of rival Topelius-monuments in Helsingfors—Ville Vallgren's, where the seated and avuncular author of Boken om våxrt land (1875; The Book about Our Country) and Läsning för [End Page 291] barn (1865-1896; Reading for Children) is surrounded by adoring tots, à la H.C. Andersen, and Gabriel Finne's, where two nude and nubile maidens stand erect. (Lest it be thought that Finne's statuary hints at some urge to hankypanky on uxorious Uncle Zachris's part, Finne's statuary was titled "Saga och Sanning" (Tale and Truth), and, in his dedication speech, Professor Gunnar Castrén emphasized its allegorical character.)

Plainly, Topelius studies are booming; with the new Ljungblommor (Heath Blossoms), the standard edition of the collected works—all of them?—has gotten handsomely underway. The first volume is monumental, necessarily heavy in the hand, and quadripartite. Ljungblommor I (1845) has among its star-turns the Fennophiliac runometer poems, "Såxngen" (The Song), about Runotar, the wise woman, and "Kantele"; the spin-off from Friedrich Rückert, "Du är min ro" (Thou art my Peace); and tributes to the pioneers of Finno-Ugric research, Castrén and Lönnrot, as well as to the venerated Rückert (1788-1866), professor of oriental languages at Berlin, and a never-failing source of Biedermeier verse. Ljungblommor II (1850) shows greater subtlety, as in "Den fordna flickan" (The Former Girl), "a very pretty, melancholy poem" (Martin Granér), apparently sprung from Topelius's bad conscience about his youthful flame, Mathilda Lithén; "Napoleons...


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