Tiina Mahlamäki & Tomas Mansikka 2013. His Visions have captured my thoughts : Emanuel Swedenborg in the Newspapers and National Literature in 19th Century Finland.

Tiina Mahlamäki & Tomas Mansikka 2013. "His Visions have captured my thoughts": Emanuel Swedenborg in the Newspapers and National Literature in 19th Century Finland.

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  CONTRIBUTION 296 ‘HIS VISIONS HAVE CAPTURED MY THOUGHTS’: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG IN THE NEWSPAPERS AND NATIONAL LITERATURE IN 19 TH  CENTURY FINLAND Tiina Mahlamäki & Tomas Mansikka T he first part of this paper will briefly demonstrate that Swedenborg was not an unknown character in 19 th  century Finland, a view still predomi- nant in cultural and literary studies. It will be shown that Swedenborg, on the contrary, appeared regularly in Finnish newspapers and was dis- cussed in ways that prove him to be part of the literary, cultural and religious discourses of the time. One of the conclusions will be, to put it simply, that all Finns who did read newspapers also knew who Emanuel Swedenborg was and what his main achievements were. From this we will proceed to briefly examine two Finnish national authors by exploring Swedenborgian traits in their writings, and also some of the ways Swedenborgian themes, as part of mainstream nineteenth-century spirituality, may be discerned in their works.  Swedenborgian references in Finnish 19 th  century newspapers  The National Library of Finland has, to the great benefit of scholars, digitized and thus made available the entirety of newspapers published in the country from the late 18 th  century onwards (when this research was done, up to 1909). The Newspaper Library contains all in all 165 titles with more than 800,000 pages. 1 The number of newspapers in the early 19 th  century was not large. In 1830 Finland had only 8 newspapers, of which the majority (6) were in Swedish, as it was the language of government, science and education at the time. During the second half of the century the number of newspapers increased rapidly, reaching 16 in 1860, 34 in 1880, and 84 in 1900; from the 1880s the total sum of Finnish newspapers also clearly exceeded the number of Swedish (20/14). This period is marked by a growing nationalism and rapid economic and political development. Being formerly a part of the Kingdom of Sweden, Finland was a Grand Duchy of Russia from 1809 until the Declaration of Independence in 1917. The ties to Sweden had notwithstanding remained tight, especially among the learned. The first newspapers were published in Turku (Sw. Åbo), which was the capital of Finland until 1812, and after the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, also the university, The Academy of Turku, was moved to the new capital, Helsinki. The language of the first newspaper was Swedish. It was started in 1771 ( Tidningar Utgifne Af et Sällskap i Åbo, 1771–1778, the title later shortened to  Åbo Tidningar  , 1782–1861), while the first paper in Finnish,  Suomenkieliset Tieto-Sanomat  , was commenced in 1775. 2 All in all, the Newspaper Archive retrieved some 700 references to Emanuel Swe- denborg, of which nearly one third are from the first decade of the 20 th  century. The  CONTRIBUTION 297 majority of the references consist, as one would expect, of advertisements. In these there appear for-sale announcements of Swedish translations of Swedenborg’s writings, compilations of his texts, as well as biographies or commentaries on his ideas. In this group there are also book reviews in which journalists report on new books published abroad, in some cases also summarizing the best or most interesting parts of the contents. Although most of the book reviews are short, descriptive and neutral, some reviews develop into attention-grabbing deep analysis. Next to advertisements come news, anecdotes, accounts of astonishing occur- rences and short, amusing stories about Swedenborg. The first reference to Swedenborg dates from 1799. It is an adver- tisement of a book by ‘assessor Swedenborg’ on spirit-communications in  Åbo Tidningar  . Next, a short and rather cautious presentation was published in 1802, which notes that Swedenborg’s followers seem to be on the rise in Sweden, perhaps more than ever before. In 1807 the same newspaper announces a French translation of Swedenborg’s theosophical works. A period of silence follows, which lasts until late 1823, when  Åbo Tidningar   advertises a new book in Swedish entitled  Swedenborg och Bibeln . The book is a translation of the infamous  Swedenborgianism Depicted in its True Colours   (1820) by Rev. J. G. Pike. Next year, in 1824, the first article on Swedenborg is published in  Åbo Underrättelser   (28.1.1824). The article is occasioned by J. F. I. Tafel’s Göttliche Offenbarungen bekanntgemacht durch  Immanuel von Swedenborg   published in 1822. According to the anonymous writer, the work of Tafel has achieved great popularity in Germany, for which reason a second edition is issued in 1823. Despite reservations as regards Tafel’s reverential bias towards his subject, the writer contends that Swedenborg’s writings are ‘from religious, philosophical and his- torical viewpoints significant’. On April 1829  Åbo Underrättelser   reports on an incident in Nantes, France, where a Swedenborgian noblewoman had caused a great stir in the city, as she allegedly had cured sick people by mere prayer and healing power. 3 In the 1830s a translation of J. F. I. Tafel’s introduction to the Ger- man edition of Swedenborg’s theological writings goes on sale, entitled  Halten och Värdet af Em. Swedenborgs Theologiska Skrifter  . The book is an-nounced three times in  Åbo Tidningar   (1831, twice in 1837) and once in  Helsingfors Tidningar   (1837). More importantly, in 1833 a lengthy article appears in  Åbo Tidningar   which draws comparisons between Sweden- borg and Goethe. The story recaps a conversation between one Johannes Falk and Goethe, in which the former questions the latter on his view of heaven, and blames it for being dull and boring. After this a detailed account of Swedenborg’s view of heaven is given, and Goethe contends that Swedenborg describes it well. The article concludes that Goethe could be seen as being at least half a Swedenborgian, as also are his  CONTRIBUTION 298 fellow-countrymen, who in the 1830s translate and print the works of Swedenborg. In 1834 both  Helsingfors Morgonblad   and  Åbo Tidningar   spot- light an incident concerning Swedenborg that was to be followed up and highlighted in several issues during the century, namely the whereabouts of Swedenborg’s skull, which had been stolen. This account produced lengthy articles, as in the latter newspaper of 1834, and again in 1841 after P. D. A. Atterbom’s work  Svenska Siare och Skalder   (Swedish Prophets and Poets) had been published. Another popular story, narrated also in Atterbom’s work and fre- quently recycled in the newspapers, describes a learned Finn who in his youth paid a visit to Swedenborg during his stay in London. On arrival the young man was asked to wait outside Swedenborg’s office. As he waited, he could hear that his host was engaged in a conversation in Latin concerning the situation in Rome at the time of the reign of Em-peror Augustus. When the conversation was over, the door opened and Swedenborg appeared to escort an invisible guest from his office; after this perplexing incident he invited the Finn to his office and, begging his pardon for the delay, informed him that his erudite companion had been none other than Virgil himself. In some versions of the story the young man is identified as H. G. Porthan (1739–1804), a former professor at the Academy of Turku, despite the fact that it is evident that Porthan never visited London. In the 1840s the anecdote about Swedenborg and Virgil continues to be recycled. In 1844 Wasa Tidningar   publishes a lengthy report of the Scandinavian Meeting of Natural Scientists held in Stockholm, 13–19 July 1842. The article cites Berzelius’ lecture in which Swedenborg’s scientific work is highly esteemed. In 1845  Åbo Tidningar   advertises a new work on Swedenborg by J. F. I. Tafel entitled  Swedenborg und seine Gegner   (1838). Overall, Swedenborg seems to have been a welcome, pleasing subject for readers. Frequent references to Swedenborg and the Swedenborgian Church (The New Church) suggest a particular interest both in him as a person and in his teachings. From the mid-eighteenth century references to Swedenborg become more or less commonplace. At this stage one may also contend that hardly anyone from the reading and educated public could fail to take notice of the Swedish scientist and spirit-seer. The image of Swedenborg is fur- thermore highly positive; he is referred to on several occasions as being a genius and belonging among the greatest of Swedish scholars. An interest in the Swedenborgian movement is also apparent in, for instance, 1856, when  Finlands Allmänna Tidning   estimates that Swedenborg has, at the time, 7,000 followers. Familiarity with Swedenborg is further attested by the group of texts that use Swedenborg’s name in a metaphorical mode. This happens, for instance, in fictional texts and serial stories  CONTRIBUTION 299 which appear regularly in the newspapers. One example is: ‘She is like a female Swedenborg, the only difference being that Swedenborg was wise and she is silly’ (  Åbo Tidningar   22.11.1850). Another reply goes: ‘Your words smack a bit of Swedenborg. What do you mean?’ (  Åbo Tidningar    27.1.1852). Sayings and citations such as these amply testify that the name of Swedenborg didn’t need any further clarification. The increase of references to Swedenborg from the early 1850s is also, by and large, due to the following events: a commemorative medal of Swedenborg instigated by The Royal Swedish Academy in 1852; Ham-marskiöld’s history of Swedish literature (  Svenska Litteraturens Historia ); a recently found  Dream Diary  of Swedenborg; and finally Bernhard von Beskow’s biography of Swedenborg (  Minne öfver assessoren i Bergs-kol-legium Emanuel Swedenborg  ) published in 1859. Moreover, in  Suometar    from 2.11.1852, Swedenborg’s name occurs for the first time in a Finnish context and wording. Also the work  Emanuel Swedenborgs tankar och syner  , from 1819, was republished (1858) and a less comprehensive  Swedenborgs ande  syner   was published in 1856. 4  Interesting to note is that the first printing of the former work went unnoticed during the ‘silent years’ in regard to Swedenborg, i.e. 1808–1822. In the 1850s also two short works by Swedenborg are re-issued, Om Hvita Hästen  (The White Horse) and Om själens och kroppens gemenskap  (The Interaction Between the Soul and the Body).In the 1860s both works of and by Swedenborg are put forward for the reading public. In October 1860 the newspaper Wiborg   discusses Swedenborg and Heinrich Heine at length, with excerpts in translation from the latter’s  Romanzero  (1851). In 1862 a translation of E. A. Hitch- cock’s  Swedenborg, A Hermetic Philosopher   is promoted in  Åbo Underrättelser    and continues to be advertised during the following years. A chapter on Swedenborg as a mystic, from Emerson’s  Representative Men , was trans-lated and published in three parts in  Borgåbladet in December 1863. In the next year, 1864, M. Matter’s biography was translated from French (  Hans lefnad, hans skrifter, och hans lära ) and announced in Wasabladet  . A novel by ‘Pilgrimen’ (Ulrika Sofia von Strussenfelt) is published in 1865 under the title  Swedenborgs Guddotter  , Tankar och Syner   (Sweden- borg’s God-daughter, Thoughts and Visions). Furthermore, many works by Swedenborg are offered for purchase, for instance  Arcana Coelestia ,  Apocalypsis Revelata  and  Apocalypsis Explicata . In some issues Swedenborg is mentioned as a mystic, in others he is compared to pietistic leaders such as Zinzendorf. It is also acknowledged that most members of the spiritualist movement are followers of Swedenborgian principles. From the 1870s onwards Swedenborg continues to appear frequently in the newspapers. Swedenborg’s gazebo (Sw. lusthus  ) becomes a subject of many articles. One notable event is the commemorating of the cen-  CONTRIBUTION 300 tenary of Swedenborg’s death in 1872. A translation from 1872 of the Swedenborgian Chauncey Giles’  Lectures on the Nature of Spirit   is presented in a review article in 1873. A great deal of attention is paid to a book by van Osterzeen entitled  Emanuel Swedenborg den nordiske andeskådaren , translated from Dutch in 1874, which is reviewed and often referred to in subsequent newspapers. William Spear’s  Emanuel Swedenborg: The  Spiritual Columbus   (1876) is translated in 1878 and advertised in 1879. In the 1880s the main themes include the centenary of the New Church, founded in London in 1783. Also a temple of the Swedenborgian Church was built and opened in Stockholm in 1884. The rituals of the New Church clearly interested the reading public in Finland, who were granted a detailed description of a Swedenborgian funeral, the first of its kind in Sweden. In 1886 a history of early 18 th  century Swedenborgianism in Sweden and Finland was published by Robert Sundelin, receiving notice in the newspapers as well. The year 1888, finally, was the celebration of Swedenborg’s 200 th  birthday, and in the following year Finnish-speaking readers were able to read about the history of spiritualism, in which Swedenborg was included.During the 1890s the number of newspapers increased rapidly, and the latter half of the decade witnessed a formidable 30 percent enhance- ment of printed tabloids. During the economic upswing of the period the newspapers obviously also abounded in advertisements. 5  The discussion initiated by Immanuel Kant’s essay  Swedenborg  :  Dreams of a Spirit-Seer    becomes at this stage a topic of interest in the newspapers. The issue of the debate concerned Swedenborg as either a lunatic or an exceptional man. Swedenborg’s gazebo in Stockholm was up for sale; it was moved to the open-air museum of Skansen. A short news clip informing readers that there were quite a few followers of Swedenborg in America circulated in several newspapers as well. Also a sermon given by the Reverend A. Björk from the New Church was mentioned in many newspapers. One could also read a touching story about Zacharias Topelius, the Finnish poet, journalist and author, who as an elderly man visited Stockholm and spent a long time standing in front of Swedenborg’s gazebo. August Strindberg’s essay on Swedenborg’s followers in Paris and the influence of Swedenborg on H. Balzac’s novel  Seraphita  was published in both Finnish and Swedish newspapers in the year 1898.The first book on Swedenborg in Finnish was published as late as in the year 1900. This was M. Matter’s biography of Swedenborg, srcinally written in French and translated into Swedish thirty-six years earlier. The publication of the book was noted in the Finnish newspapers: it was advertised more than 50 times that same year. The advertisement informs the public as follows:
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