- Sophie Creutz och hennes tid: Adelsliv i 1700-talets Finland by Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen
Camilla Frostell is the worthy translator of Sophie Creutzin aika: Aat-eliselämää 1700-luvun Suomessa (2008; Sophie Creutz's Time: Life of the Nobility in Eighteenth-Century Finland). The book's heroine (1752-1824) was the daughter of Count Johan Carl Creutz and Baroness Eva Sofia von der Pahlen, a Baltic-German from Estonia. Her paternal uncle was Gustaf Philip Creutz, a member of Sweden's diplomatic corps, briefly in Madrid, and for a long time (1765-1782) in Paris. As every student of Swedish letters knows, he also composed the rococo epyllion Atis och Camilla (1761): "Jag sjunger om den eld, som plågor och förnöjer, / då han sin första magt i unga hjärtan röjer" [I sing about the flame, which torments and appeals, / Whene'er to youthful hearts his force he first reveals]. Sophie spent her girlhood from seven on at Malmgård in Pernå (Pernaja), an estate in eastern Nyland (Uusimaa) owned, in one way or another, by the Creutzes since 1614. Excursionists from Helsingfors, gaping at the enormous Neo-Renaissance [End Page 529] pile erected in the 1880s by Count Carl Magnus Creutz, should remember that in Sophie's day Malmgård was a graceful but far less pretentious set-up. Sophie goes unmentioned in Kurt Antell's chapter on Malmgård in Gabriel Nikander's monumental triple-decker, Herrgårdar i Finland (1928; Estates in Finland), but her practical-minded father is lauded for his agricultural and dairying innovations. Sophie seems to have inherited his good sense. On June 14, 1772 at Malmgård, she married a twenty-eight-year-old officer, Lars Glansenstierna, from the lower (untitled) nobility; she kept the right, though, to call herself Countess Glansenstierna. The union was intended to aid Lars in his career: "a noble wife was the surest means of getting a leg up, and setting a career in motion" (41).
Something of a romantic, Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen (hereafter KV-K) deduces that all went swimmingly at first: "a son [Lorents Johan] was born ten months after the wedding" (46). But his sister Vendela (born 1774) received a notably and noticeably more modest baptismal celebration than the first-born—nobody from the father's side attended! KV-K wonders if parental passions had cooled and skirts the off-chance that Lars was not Vendela's progenitor. Unusual for those days, the couple had only three children, all told; Gustaf Magnus came along in 1781; this time too, none of the father's relatives was among the godparents. Unhappily, like Scarlett's and Rhett Butler's daughter, Bonnie Blue, Lorents Johan died in a riding accident at ten.
Lars Glansenstierna was a sore-head and a troublemaker, hot-tempered and brutal with his troops, according to the memoirs of Carl Johan Aminoff, one of KV-K's prime printed sources. (Aminoff, to be sure, was prejudiced—the two had fought a duel in defiance of royal regulations.) Leaving the army in 1778, Lars rapidly transmogrified into "choleric middle-age" (61). In 1782-1784, Sophie may have had an affair with her brother-in-law, Göran Magnus Sprengtporten (1740-1818), just then a nearby estate-owner. Her husband's sickly younger sister, Anna Glansenstierna, was the first of Göran Magnus's three wives. Göran Magnus never forgot Sophie; KV-K opens her book with his poem to middle-aged Sophie, sent from St. Petersburg in December, 1809, about a "friendship that does not end." Two years before, under his nickname "Måsse," he had reminded his sometime "Hildur," in a quasi-Sapphic-and-Adonic strophe, of what they had meant to one another "in the blessed groves" of yore, where he had "tuned his lyre" in her praise (64-5). KV-K will not commit herself about how far the dalliance between these two "adult and equal persons" (78) went. Sprengtporten's biographer, Stig Ramel (Göran Magnas Sprengtporten: Förrädaren...