Viktor Rydberg &
his friendship with student Rudolf Ström
Fact vs. Fiction


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In recent decades, it is often stated that Viktor Rydberg was a homosexual with an erotic interest in young boys. No direct evidence, however, supports this slanderous claim. At its heart, the argument is literary, based on selective readings of Rydberg's published works and personal letters, interpreted through a modern lens. The core source material consists of seven handwritten copies of personal letters which Rydberg wrote to his former student Rudolf Ström (born 1842) between 1856–1862, now found in the collection of the Royal Library in Stockholm. The transcripts, made by Rydberg's wife Susen, include, among other things, expressions of affection toward the teenage Rudolf Ström. That they are copies of the originals has aroused suspicions that they were edited by Mrs. Rydberg, or worse censored. One of the reasons for the speculation is that the envelope in which the letters are filed states:
 
"The originals of these letters have been searched for many times by the staff of the Royal Library at the request of the librarian S. Hallberg in Gothenburg. They were probably intentionally destroyed by the Ström family."
 
     
The theory that Viktor Rydberg was homosexual with an interest in young boys originated with Victor Svanberg, a self-professed gay literary critic who based his claim solely on passages from Rydberg's published works and personal letters, none of which actually attest to Rydberg being gay.  No new sources have been cited since 1928 when Victor Svanberg, then an associate professor at Uppsala University, first made the argument, more than three decades after Rydberg's death in 1895. Thus, these copies of Rydberg's letters are the sole source behind the claim. The most compelling argument for Rydberg's alleged same-sex orientation remains Svanberg's premise assuming purposeful omissions in the letters and the willful destruction of the originals. When Svanberg presented the hand-copied letters as evidence in his book Novantiken i Den siste atenaren ["Greek Antiquity in The Last Athenian"], he emphasized their supposed censorship, noting:  "The letters were only been accessible to me in copies," adding that "In the copying, certain omissions have been made and indicated.” Thus, the argument is one of omission and innuendo. It isn't what the letters say, but what has allegedly been left out that is necessary to draw this conclusion.

With his seemingly secure statements about censorship of the copies, Svanberg succeeded in raising suspicions that there was something sensitive in the original letters which the Rydberg and Ström families wished to conceal. Over seventy years later, Greger Eman, writing for the gay publication Lambda Nordica, returned to the allegedly censored letters at the Royal Library.  Without evidence to substaniate his claim, Eman states that large parts of the collection were burned. The letters that remain are, he continues, "censored copies from Susan's hand". Eman's confident conviction that the originals were burnt and that the copies are censored is crucial to his conclusion that both Rydberg's and Ström's relatives tried to conceal that Rydberg had a homosexual orientation. 
   
Eman, Greger. Gossen Snövit: Passioner och förpliktelser hos Viktor Rydberg. Lambda Nordica, 5:2-3, (1999), pp. 6-41. [This is a pdf download]
    
 
THE DISCOVERY of NEW EVIDENCE
  
The original letters have since been found in the Norwegian Library of Letter Collections in Linköping.  As detailed in her 2018 book Dialog eller dynamit: Viktor Rydberg och August Strindberg-förtryckets fiender, Professor Emeritus Birthe Sjöberg of the University of Lund, following a tip from city archivist Åke Carlsson, succeeded in locating all originals to the copied letters in May 2017.  The originals were not "deliberately destroyed".  Instead, they have been preserved with care, as Rudolf Ström attests in a letter to Rydberg, dated October 26, 1892, how his "warm children's soul was attached" to Rydberg, "the first real friend I acquired". He continues: "Your gentle, loving letters to me bear with it the most beautiful testimony, letters, which are now envied by my dear little wife." [”Dina sednare, kärleksfulla bref till mig bära därom det skönaste vittnesbörd, bref, som numera med afundsjuk ömhet bevaras af min kära, lilla hustru.” ] 
 

Rudolf Ström (born 1842) died in 1913, and in 1937, Abela Hallin, the aunt of Rudolf Ström's wife Abela Wallenberg, donated the well-preserved letters to Stiftsbiblioteket in Linköping.  The envelopes are postmarked "Gothenburg" plus the date, but the stamps have been cut off. There are remnants of sealing wax on the back.  They are addressed to "The student Mr. Rudolf Ström, Linköping, Bleckenstad". For a time, Rydberg added the name Gustaf and wrote: "The student Mr. Gustaf Rudolf Ström, Linköping, Bleckenstad". When Rudolf moved to Stockholm, the letters were addressed to "Student at the Institute of Technology, Mr. Rudolf Ström, Stockholm".

Having compared the originals with the transcripts found in the Royal Library,  Professor Sjöberg found every word reproduced correctly. Thus, when he writes an "certain omissions have been made and indicated" in the transcriptions, Svanberg is incorrect. Some of the markings he refers to are also found in the original, for example, in the oldest letter, Rydberg marked one pause with four dashes in a row (see picture); other marks are not found in the originals or in the transcriptions. Thus claims about censorship of the letters in the Royal Library is baseless. Susen Rydberg did not conceal anything in the letters she copied.

Source:  Sjöberg, Birthe. Dialog eller Dynamit? (2018), pp. 29-35.
    

Rydberg's Letter to Rudolf Ström, dated September 2nd, 1856 as published in
Birthe Sjöberg's 
Dialog eller Dynamit: Viktor Rydberg och August Strindberg (2018).
 

Similar speculations have been made about Rydberg's marriage to Susen Hasselblad.  According to Professor Sjöberg, the only 'safe' source on this subject is a conversation that literature historian Olle Holmberg had with an anonymous friend (dubbed "Mrs. L.") of Susen Rydberg in 1933, over fifty years after the couple married. Interviewed just five years after Svanberg published his theory about Rydberg's supposed gossekärleken ('love for boys') which shocked their contemporaries, "Mrs. L" story may have been influenced by it.  According to Holmberg, she said: “Viktor Rydberg lived in asceticism for the first part of their marriage. His wife did not understand this, and thought that it was somehow related to his poetry. When he later wished to approach her, she was tired of waiting and did not want to." Holmberg conducted the interview when he was writing Viktor Rydberg's Lyric (1935), but chose not to include it in the book. It was not until 1948 that he included the interview together with other remaining material in a Swedish literary journal. As for the veracity of the tale, Holmberg's own words must be quoted: "The obvious reservation that should accompany all stories of this kind, that human memory is fragile and that oral tradition has never been 100 percent reliable, need not be emphasized”.

 The same interview got a bigger audience twenty-five years later when Hans O. Granlid included it in his oft-quoted anthology Vår Dröm är Frihet [Our Dream is Freedom, 1973]. But Granlid too added a warning: "It should be read with a criticial eye." As Professor Sjöberg observes, Holmberg and Granlid likely would have been more critical of Mrs. L's story if they had known Svanberg's theory lacked foundation. But neither Svanberg, Holmberg nor Granlid knew of the existence of the original letters. Nor were these three researchers unique in that respect. Not one of Professor Sjöberg's forerunners in Rydberg research knew about the original letters, and this is probably why Svanberg's conclusions have been accepted by an ever growing group of researchers.  From their statements, it is apparent that the alleged 'love for boys', as well as the alleged censorship and destruction of the original letters underlies the speculation about Rydberg's marriage.

Source:  Sjöberg, Birthe. Dialog eller Dynamit? (2018), pp. 29-35.

   


Viktor Rydberg (center) with the Hasselblad Family
at their summer home in Bångsbo, Släp parish, near Särö.

   

In a tribute to "Susen Emilia Rydberg" (born 1849) published in the journal Idun on October 4th, 1895 shortly after her husband's death, author Nils Linder recounts a personal story about Viktor Rydberg:

"So strong was Rydberg's love for his mother - which he already lost when not yet fully six years old - so deeply devoted was he to the memory of her, that on many occasions, especially at the tender moments of his life he seemed to see her in living form. From a scientific point of view, such visions are nothing surprising or inexplicable. Credible stories about such things are abundant, and Rydberg was just one of the many great and reputable personalities, who believed they received revelations  in this way.

From 1876 to '78, Rydberg gave public lectures in Gothenburg. For these he always prepared with utmost care, i.e. through writing down every word he would say and through carefully reading his concept. Thus, the audience did not have to fear any involuntary omissions by the lecturer or any stuttering attempt to recover a lost thread in the presentation. But once - probably in the Spring of 1878 - the audience of these lectures was surprised to see the man in the chair come undone for a few moments. The cause of this incident was never known to the larger public, but individual friends received Rydberg's own explanation of what happened:

Once, when he looked out into the lecture hall, he saw a vision that made him forget everything else in the world: before his eyes he saw his mother, alive. She stood beside a young woman present in the hall, whom Rydberg had met a few times with the family where he spent most of his time in Gothenburg and was treated as a member. If my memory does not fail, Rydberg, when he talked to me about this vision, added that the figure had, by some special means, brought attention to the young woman, who not long afterwards became his betrothed and later his wife.

In my collection of Rydbergiana I have found a newspaper clipping dated the 16th of May 1878. Under the rubric "Viktor Rydberg on visions" it is said that a couple of weeks prior, he had halted during a series of public lectures he held in Gothenburg - which discuss, among other things, sensory phenomena — with an explanation of  "visions", most often manifested in the visual field of the mind, but which also can effect other senses—  that they are due to "a process within the soul itself, in which a memory emerges or an image is reproduced with such extraordinary strength that it acts on the senses in the same way a real object would."

Abraham Viktor Rydberg, 1876
48 years old
 
Susen Emilia Hasselblad, 1878
29 years old
 
One day at the end of August 1878 Susen Emilia Hasselblad and Viktor Rydberg, already then widely celebrated as an author, plighted their troth to one another at Bångsbo, not far from Särö, in Halland.  A few weeks later the engagement was announced, in the customary manner, for kinsmen and friends. The wedding was celebrated on March 14, 1879 in Gothenburg, at the home of the bride's parents. This day commenced a period of marital bliss  for both spouses. The union was made in mutual love, high regard and trust. But nevertheless, Viktor Rydberg's wife had a difficult and responsible role to fill.  At that time Rydberg celebrated his wedding,  his health was far from satisfactory. Among her first duties as wife, Susen considered the role of nurse to be the highest. Immersed in his research and writing, the noble scientist and poet was generally uninterested in external affairs.  His wife took care of the cardinal issues of life, remaining constantly and incessantly vigilant in her duties. She kept his promises and connections, remembering them and making sure they were completed.  That she had a heart for service to others is clear. In her own words to an admired friend, Julia von Vollmar, dated October 24, 1887, Susen says:
"If I were not where I am — if Viktor did not need me, no matter how insignificant I am, I would, of all things in the world, want to be your maidservant." *
Rydberg often spoke with pride and heartfelt satisfaction about his excellent "secretary" and "librarian".  For more than 16 years, Susen contributed, infinitely more than anyone else, to the artist's learning and thought-life, by preparing a home and a home life, which met all his needs and desires, and which he therefore became increasingly reluctant to leave, when it came to visits with relatives and friends.  To this period belong the vast majority of Rydberg's poems, his Investigations into Germanic Mythology (1884-1889) and Our Fathers' Godsaga, his last novel Vapensmeden (The Gunsmith) and Varia.  Almost the entire time, Rydberg also conducted college lectures, which claimed a large part of his time. His wife's role was critical to his work; even those who stood outside their circle of family and friends could draw this conclusion from the volume and nature of his writings.  In the same issue of Idun mentioned above, Eva Fryzell, a member of the Svenska Literatursällskapet, memorialised the poet in this manner:
"Viktor Rydberg received as his lot, priceless happiness born in noble women's hands. With reverence and love, he spoke of the early passing of his mother, and during life's most important moments he thought he could see her guiding hand. He had many female friends; and she who stood closest to his heart, his devoted wife, herself co-joined a spouse's and a mother's tenderness. Female love was devoted to him in rich measure. No Swedish skald ought to live as long as he in the grateful memory of Swedish women. "
 
*Source: Lund, Tore. "Brev från Susen (nyupptäckta brev från Susen Rydberg till väninnan Julia von Vollmar)", Veritas, 26, Dec. 2010.  Julia's father was the wealthy wholesaler Victor Abraham Kjellberg (1814-1875), brother of Susen's mother Susanna. Two of Julia's siblings married siblings of Susen.
   

Viktor and Susen Rydberg
   

By all accounts, Rydberg was a private person who never spoke of his personal affairs. His personal letters therefore remain the best window in his soul.  He was a deeply spiritual man whose novels and poems have often been described as ideally philosophical in nature, and less kindly as "sexless". If he had homosexual tendencies, there is no direct evidence of it, and none that he ever acted on them with anyone, much less with his young pupil Rudolf Ström! Even Svanberg doesn't make that ugly accusation. Those who make this claim have strayed far from the source material. As Rydberg's recent biographer, Judith Moffett (2001), writes:
 

"We can construct a story of backdoor illicit liasons and front door respectability from these fragments and others— Rydberg would hardly be the first, if it were true— but he never spoke openly about his personal life at any time, and so our best guess would still be guesswork."

 


Viktor Rydberg's most comprehensive biographer, Karl Warburg, author of Viktor Rydberg: A Biography (1900), wrote of Rydberg's marriage:
"In his personal and public life and position, an important change occurred towards the end of the 1870s: his engagement and marriage. The idea of ​​forming a home of his own had been a good dream as a bright future for him in his youth; but conditions had not allowed him to realize it. Now that he was at the height of maturity and approaching the half-century mark, it came to pass when he was engaged in October of 1878 and  married on March 14, 1879 to Susen Emilia Hasselblad, daughter of the wholesaler Fritz V. Hasselblad and his wife, Susen Kjellberg, in Gothenburg.

"Viktor Rydberg's wife had an eye for the importance of providing him with peace to work, and did what she could to remove disruptions and obstacles. She took on the burdens of the practical duties, adapting  the poet and thinker to domestic life as much as possible. His female companion during these years was certainly an essential part of the harmonious mood which so favorably marked Rydberg's last days,  and in these conditions, Rydberg produced rich work during his last fifteen years— in calm and quiet. With all fervor he called her 'his very best friend on earth' and 'his other self in all things good'. With feminine sacrifice, she gave everything to his work and lived only to meet his needs."

S. E. Hedlund also wrote well of her: "What pleases and warms my heart to think of the tranquil harbor, in which my friend was allowed to rest his joys under the care of his faithful companion."

Rydberg himself, in a letter to his sister Hedda Clark, writes about his living conditions the year after his marriage in January 1880:
"I am a sluggish letter writer, because I have to sit at the desk so much, and even during my free time, it is difficult for me to turn off the thoughts that then occupy me;  ...Although I am not capable, but must work and exert myself to acquire my bread, I am happy, because I have been able to follow my inner calling, which is one of the greatest benefits that can befall a man, and because I have the most cordial, nicest and in every respect the best little wife imaginable. We have a neat home, one that suits a writer, in a beautiful neighborhood of the city.

"My wife's parents and siblings with their family members constitute a lovable circle of friendship, which I enjoy and show the greatest affection for me. My old society with the Hedlund family is as intimate as it always has been, and I have so far gained respect and kindness even in the most extensive circles with which I come into contact, and my writing business has gained recognition in my country. All of this means that I should feel grateful for the higher powers that govern our lives. Gratitude also includes you, please, little sister, who has been my good angel during the difficult days in my youth."


With this in mind, let us return to where the rumor started. As you read,  note the author's suggestive tone and his use of overt innuendos throughout the text:

 

1928 Victor Svanberg

Associate Professor, Uppsala University

Novantiken i Den Siste Atenaren, p. 24

Translated from Swedish

     
  In 1855, Rydberg came to his position in the Handelstidning newspaper from a Captain Ström at Senäte near Kinnekulle, where he was tutor to a son in the house. In the following years, a series of letters were exchanged between him and his former teacher, that over all are the most important documents for Rydberg’s biography of this time. The letters were only been accessible to me in copies, preserved in the great collection of Rydbergiana in the Royal Library.   In the copying, certain omissions have been made and indicated. The letters printed in Haverman’s edition are in the most extremely edited condition.[1]
         On Sept. 2nd, 1855, Rydberg responds to a letter that has not been preserved (or copied). The older friend requites the boy’s declaration that he often thought of his 'Yberg':

   “— — as far as I remember, [has] no day gone past that I haven’t thought of you. Perhaps our thoughts have met halfway and embraced one another as heartily as I shall embrace you when next I meet you.

“— — wonder, if you exercise much, if you can still swim.”

          “If you know, how I long to see your small, dear face. Many times have I attempted to draw your portrait on paper from memory without success.” He sends Rudolf 2 rdr
[2] to photograph himself and send him a picture. “I shall hang it over my bed, give it a look every morning when I wake and keep it until you become a grown man in order to show you how you look as a boy.

"— — My kind Uda! You may not have been in Stockholm a week, before you fulfilled my prayer! I have reckoned that before September 20th I can have your picture on my wall; if it takes longer than that I shall send a reproachful thought to your room in Stockholm every night that shall haunt you and not give you peace until that happens.”
           Rydberg sends assurances of his “warm, never dying love.” He says that he enjoys his new work, but not his new city. He speaks of Rudolf’s future and returns from this to his appeal to exercise diligently:
          “Through this, one becomes healthy, strong, and supple in body and mind. When I see you again, I will find you healthy and as prosperous as a young rose…”
[3]
         During the summer of 1856, Rydberg expects a visit from the Ströms. For this reason, Rudolf writes on November 11th, 1856: “for every day that someone came, I imagined, before I received word who it was, that it was Mr. Rydberg.”
          He (Rudolf) has been upbraided for writing so rarely — Rydberg believes himself neglected for new school-comrades — and he declares now that he shall write every month and that he will not neglect his friend:
          “How could my devout friend ever believe that I could forget Yberg, no never, never could I do that; and I have no friends yet and likely will not ever have a real and true friend.”
             In the response letter dated January 18th 1857 (Rudolf’s letter has been lost), Rydberg takes notice of the promise of more frequent letters:
              “I shall hold you to this promise, but will, in order that it may not become heavy and burdensome, gladly be satisfied with a few lines every time. You have no one else to write, so write only how you feel and your dear name there under. I save every letter from you as a memento.”          “Your portrait, which hangs on the wall by my work-table, I consider most often during free hours and recognize with joy every feature in your face; even the look in your eyes has not changed. You are still my Rudolf.”

“ — — your water-color was very nice. I keep it in a box beside two other small pictures you drew, the one a genre-piece, representing how you toiled in the life-belt, while I stood in the boat before the life-belt-pole, the other a landscape— or more correctly a seascape with forest-covered islands and the moon.”
        The following summer Rydberg thought to make a journey on foot in Västergötland with a friend:
            “since I intend to separate from them and continue the journey on my own, in order to meet a certain little friend that I  keep more by than some other. “— — While I now write, I have your [portrait] lying before me. But it is not the same as seeing you in person, and I really long to hug you vigorously in my armsonce again. I think of you daily, my best friend Uda! And do with this letter what you said you did with my previous one.”           

The last request refers to the following passage in Rudolf’s letter: “So many times I have given Mr. Rydberg’s letter a devout Spormosa” It is evidently a paraphrase for kiss, and Rydberg has used a paraphrase of the paraphrase.

        In a P.S., he says that he dwells upon a novel. It is “The Freebooter on the Baltic” in which he indicates his infatuation for a “meagerly grown boy”. On August 1st, 1857, when Rudolf Ström receives the book and thanks him for it, he writes that he recognizes  part of its contents: In many places, I recognize the stories Rydberg tells me of the witch-trails.” The relations of the two friends must actually have been very intimate. By the side of a tutor’s ordinary duties has Rydberg taken time to give his little friend swimming lessons but also to teach him part of his cultural history studies, hardly suitable for a child.
           In the same letter, Rydberg is invited to the Ström’s new property, Bleckenstad in Östergotland. The boy wanted to make the invitation as tempting as possible:   “Pappa himself (!) builds the residence-house here at home, and there it is so furnished that Yberg can come and stay in the room beside me — — I hope and wish so much to get to see my Yberg at Bleckenstad.”
           In an undated letter, responding to one of August 15th 1857, Rudolf explains excitedly: “I weep with joy to have such a friend, the only one whose friendship I could previously acquire.” One year later on August 8th 1858, Rydberg has experiences from Norway to relate. What he has to say there about the connection between his love and his feelings for nature is confirmed by his contemporary poetry:
[4]
       “From Dovre mountain we climbed down into Romsdale. Oh, my Uda, there you should walk by my side. — — — During the journey, as on others, I often thought of you: a beautiful regions meet the walker’s eyes, leading his thoughts back to a friend with which he should want to try to live in that place.”
            In the next letter, he renews the association between journeys to beautiful regions and the friend: It is now a question of Greece, where the poet, near the end of the year 1858, tarries in imagination during his work on The Last Athenian, which he mentions in the letter:
           “I have big travel-plans for myself and have thought of nothing less than a journey to Italy and Greece. But I may well put off the journey until 1860, if I am alive then. In 1859, instead, I shall travel to Rudolf Ström who competes with Italy and Greece for my favor, and the first thing I shall do is take him in my arms and the second — no the third, to drink a brorskål
[5] with him, because now he is no longer the little stripling whose hair I could pull and spank, if I chose, but a young man that unpunished nobody dares to be at loggerheads.”
          One takes note that Rydberg has as before evaded to speak about the kiss — but that he covets it, firmly saying to himself that the boy has become a man. The letter concludes: “Now ten thousand hugs and farewells”, and under his signature adds: “If you do not write immediately, I shall haunt you in your dreams (December 20th 1858)."
        Rydberg has no difficulty intertwining  that in his love-explanations in the same manner braided into his subsequent idealistic interest: the sharp-shooter’s movement. The Autumn 1859, when he was occupied with his brochure about a popular-arming, based on sports-exercise in schools, he writes to Rudolf Ström, expecting interest of him for the voluntary marksman-movement:
             “Our friendship-connection, so delightful for me and dear also to you, could then also bear a fruit for others.”
              In feeling of that the union of minds now approached its conclusion, since its object ceased to be a child, in the same letter he gives a melancholy look back on their old life together:
            “I still recall the time at Senäte when I working on an astronomy problem, drew differentials and integrals and constantly looked up my logarithmic tables, scarcely allowing myself a night’s rest, before I solved it. But still gladly taking time with the picture of my little slender dark-haired boy, whose countenance the photograph you sent me, preserved and I often looked at with a feeling of sadness. Why it should be with one such feeling, I will not seek to investigate; I do not want to have the whole time when we were together, again, but an hour of the time I want to relive and have you by my side, precisely as you were then, a little pale, skinny, but in my opinion, a very beautiful boy. It was something in your face that occupied me; I think about it now, moreover with the child-expression with which it was devoutly united, was entirely gone, when I saw you again.” (November 29th, 1859).
     The letter concludes with the usual wish about a substitute in the world of dreams for a meeting which could not happen in the real world: “I now go to bed, perhaps to dream of you.”
 
 
 
 
Footnotes:
[1] [Svanberg’s footnote] Brev II, s. 3 ff.
[2] “rdr” is short for the former currency in Sweden, riksdaler.
[3] [Svanberg’s footnote] An omission is indicated in the transcript.
[4] [Svanberg’s footnote:] See “Rydberg’s Singoalla, a Study” p. 78.
[5] Brorskål, literally “brothers’ cheers”, a drink to seal a formal bond of friendship.
 
 
I will point out once more: the copied letters in the Royal Library have not been censored. All the affectionate phrases were faithfully reproduced by Rydberg's wife. In thier original context, her husband's words are best read as signs of great affection for the young student he had tutored and not as an erotic expression. Susen Rydberg, of course, was aware of the connotations of words and  did not see fit to censor the letters. Likewise, Rudolf Ström shared the letters with his wife, and preserved them faithfully until his own death. The evidence simply does not support the conclusion that Rydberg was a homosexual or a pedophile. Svanberg, who created a sensation with the accusation on the centennial of the author's birth, appears to have seen what he wanted to in Rydberg's work. His was a deeply personal reading. In "Strindberg and Genre" (1991), Michael Robinson writes:
"Victor Svanberg (1896-1985) was a literary critic who became a professor at the provincial university of Uppsala. Some people — he himself at least — considered him daring and radical because he stated openly that the great liberal Swedish nineteenth-century writer Viktor Rydberg (1825-1895) was homosexual and loved boys."

Svanberg was the first to highlight what he saw as the underlying personal motives for Rydberg's interest in the antiquities.  According to Greger Eman, who earned degrees in social anthropology and literature, Svanberg's motive for highlighting Rydberg's sexuality "was based in both a general political and sexual radicalism' with the hope that  "his book would serve as a blow to the culturally conservative establishment". Eman concludes:
"He did so on the 100th anniversary of Rydberg's birth, a poorly-chosen occasion, as the audience expected praises and honorary memorials. At that time, Viktor Rydberg's name was more acclaimed than before or since. He was not just a role model for youth, but came to represent the  whole of Swedish literture in the 1800s from Romanticism through Liberalism's efforts to enlighten to a foreshadowing of 20th century expressionist painting.  Against this background, it may not be considered strange, that a few years earlier Svanberg was forced by his supervisor, Professor Blanck, to omit a chapter in his dissertation where he discussed the 'homosexual' relationship between the knights Erland and Sorgbarn (in Rydberg's masterwork Singoalla). Blanck refused to contribute to making 'the noble Swedish idealist' look like Oscar Wilde."*

*
Svanberg, Victor. Leva för att leva. Memoarer, Stockholm, 1970, p. 50.


According to modern literary theory, Svanberg's personal interpretion of the letters' contents can be explained in that he, as a researcher, unconsciously applied his own opinions and experiences to the text. As Professor Sjöberg points out, Greger Eman, himself a leader in the LGBTQ movement, indirectly admitted as much, when he said: 
"In his memoirs, Leva för att leva (1970), Svanberg admitted his own attraction to men. It is likely that, thanks to his own homosexuality, he was well positioned to do what would today be called a queer reading of Rydberg's half-queer visions and the many aesthetic descriptions of the  athletic male body."
To make his case, Svanberg, isolated passages in a series of friendly letters between the sickly adolescent and his former tutor, citing them as the basis for his theory of a same-sex attraction between Rydberg (then 27) and teenager Rudolf Ström. In the letters, Rydberg expresses great concern for the boy's well-being and health, encouraging him to get outdoors and exercise, as they had once done together. He also requests a picture of the boy, and praises his artistic talent. In response, Rudolf laments that he has no other friends because of his poor health, and longs for Rydberg, now a rising cultural figure, to visit him. Considering Rydberg's own tragic childhood and his repeated bouts of ill-health and depression, it seems more likely that Rydberg saw himself in this young man, feeling the need to befriend and encourage the boy in a way that no one had done for him at that age. Rather than a same-sex attraction, Rydberg more likely felt deep sympathy for this young man's plight, having overcome similar hardships in his own life.

     

 
See also:  The 'Outing' of Viktor Rydberg
 

 
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