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GUNNAR WENNERBERG (1817-1901)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 519 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GUNNAR WENNERBERG (1817-1901), Swedish poet, musician and politician, was born at Lidkoping, of which place his father was parish priest, on the 2nd of October 1817. He passed through the public school of Skara, and in his twentieth year became a student at Upsala. He was remarkable from the first, handsome in face and tall in figure, with a finely trained singing voice, and brilliant in wit and conversation. From the outset of his career he was accepted in the inner circle of men of light and leading for which the university was at that time famous. In 1843 he became a member of the musical club who called themselves " The Juvenals," and for their meetings were written the trios and duets, music and words, which Wennerberg began to publish in 1846. In the following year appeared the earliest numbers of Gluntarne (or " The Boys "), thirty duets for baritone and bass, which continued to be issued from 1847 to 185o. The success of these remarkable productions, master-pieces in two arts, was overwhelming: they presented an epitome of all that was most unique and most attractive in the curious university life of Sweden. In the second volume of his collected works Wennerberg gave, long afterwards, a very interesting account of the inception and history of these celebrated duets. His great personal popularity, as the representative Swedish student, did not prevent him, however, from pursuing his studies, and he became an authority on Spinoza. In 185o he first travelled through Sweden, singing and reciting in public, and his tour was a long popular triumph. In 186o he published his collected trios, as The Three. In 1865, at the particular wish of the king, Charles XV., Wennerberg entered official life in the department of elementary education. He succeeded Fahlcrantz in 1866 as one of the eighteen of the Swedish Academy, and in 1870 became minister for education (Ekklesiastikminister) in the Adlercreutz government, upon the fall of which in 1875 he retired for a time into private life. He was, however, made lord-lieutenant in the province of Kronoberg, and shortly afterwards was elected to represent it in the Diet. His active parliamentary life continued until he was nearly eighty years of age. In 1881 and 1885 he issued his collected works, mainly in verse. In 1893 he was elected to the upper house. He preserved his superb appearance in advanced old age, and he died, after a very short illness, on the 24th of August 1901, at the royal castle of Lecko, where he was visiting his brother-in-law, Count Axel Rudenschold. His wife, the Countess Hedvig Cronstedt, whom he married in 1852, died in 1900. Wennerberg was a most remarkable type of the lyrical, ardent Swedish aristocrat, full of the joy of life and the beauty of it. In the long roll of his eighty-four years there was scarcely a crumpled rose-leaf. His poems, to which their musical accompaniment is almost essential, have not ceased, in half a century, to be universally pleasing to Swedish ears; outside Sweden it would be difficult to make their peculiarly local charm intelligible. (E. G.)
End of Article: GUNNAR WENNERBERG (1817-1901)
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