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Topelius, Zachris (1818 - 1898)

author, journalist, professor

Zachris Topelius
Photo: Daniel Nyblin, Society of Swedish Literature in Finland

As a journalist and author, Zachris Topelius took stands on social issues and moulded public opinion. As a university teacher within the framework of the old system of primary and secondary schools, he exercised a long-lasting moral influence, both through his internationally known books of fairy tales and his historical novels, especially Fältskärns berättelser ('Tales of a Barber-Surgeon')

Zachris Topelius had an extraordinarily versatile and extremely productive mind. His influence as an educator and moralist was already considerable in his earlier days, and it reached its peak in his old age. It remained strong, especially within the old system of primary and secondary schools and thanks to his internationally known fairy-story collections and his historical novels, in particular Fältskärns berättelser (Tales of a Barber-Surgeon). In the late 20th century Topelius also attracted interest as a nostalgic author when Boken om vårt land ('A Book about our Country') and Finland framstäldt i teckningar ('Finland Presented in Drawings') were republished, and the Topelius Year celebrated in 1998 to mark the centenary of his death was a great success.

Zacharias Topelius was born at Kuddnäs Farm near Uusikaarlepyy in 1818 and was named after his father, a district doctor and noted collector of folk poetry. He himself most often used the abbreviation Z. or the form Zachris, even in official contexts; the Finnish form Sakari is also often used. In his careful upbringing of his son, Topelius's father emphasised diligence, truthfulness, and willingness to help, and at the same time the importance of activeness and the outdoor life. His mother - Catharina Sofia Calamnius, the daughter of a wealthy merchant - had a reputation as a talented educator, and some relatives sent their children to her to be brought up. In his own educational programme, Topelius later laid emphasis on the ideals mentioned above; in his life he exemplified diligence and a willingness to help, but hardly the same degree of active, outdoor life. His character was marked by cheerfulness and a sense of humour, but also by feelings of depression and weakness and by a certain degree of delicacy and femininity. Topelius' lively imagination and appetite for books were joined early on by an interest in the mysterious and mystical; this interest gradually took the form of fatalism and then of a belief in Providence. It would appear that this belief originated from his simple and warm-hearted Christianity, which was influenced by his sister's (and to some extent also by his wife's) turning towards pietism around 1847. His religiousness deepened after the deaths of children in the family and other personal misfortunes around 1860, and it found expression in his fairy stories and above all in the large number of hymns that he wrote. In about 1867 - 1868, Topelius turned towards a more pessimistic and fatalistic outlook.

Topelius' grandfather was a painter, and his father's great interest lay in folk poetry. Thus young Zachris' artistic leanings were encouraged and his imagination stimulated; he learned from observation and became accustomed to keeping a diary. His family's financial situation meant that his education, in which literary influences played the major role, was free of extraneous worries. At the age of eleven Topelius was sent to grammar school in Oulu to be toughened by the strict discipline and rough schoolboy life of the times and also to learn Finnish. During his school days he also read almost in its entirety the lending library run by his aunt. He thus came into contact at an early age with the new literary genre of his era - the novel - and with the historical literature rendered topical by the events of the period. Plenty of both types of literature had already appeared in Swedish.

Topelius had just turned thirteen when his father died. The following year his mother sent him to Helsinki for private preparation for his matriculation examination. Topelius lived at the Kruununhaka home of the young university lecturer Johan Ludvig Runeberg, who tutored him for the examination, and his wife Fredrika, who was interested in literature. He passed the examination on 5 June 1833 and enrolled at the University and in the Ostrobothnian Students' Association (Nation), his intention being to study Medicine and before that to obtain the required preliminary degree. Inspired by the romantic conception of enthusiasm for the natural sciences prevalent at the time, he was interested in botany and chemistry, even though his teachers at university were not adherents of this trend.

Topelius' social outlook was moulded by a number of factors. There was the middle-class world of Uusikaarlepyy, where he long spent his holidays after his move to Helsinki. In the Tengström family's Saturday Society (Lauantaiseura), the Runebergs and their friends devoted themselves to the German-dominated literary culture of the era. Through the civil-servant family of his mother's stepsister Baroness Rosenkampff, Topelius became acquainted with the uppermost social echelons of Helsinki and acquired first-hand knowledge of the "apprenticeship" of his wealthy middle-class aunt in Helsinki's "high society". In the Ostrobothnian Students' Association, Johan Vilhelm Snellman was vice-president during Topelius' first years and "forced" him to make an appearance before the Association as a poet as early as 1835. All of these environments provided him with the powers of precise social observation so important for a future journalist and with material for literary work. In Uusikaarlepyy and later also in the Students' Association, he felt encouraged to embark on his first literary ventures, and he acquired his first publics.

In addition to these circles and his academic studies and voracious reading, the theatre was a fundamental source of inspiration for Topelius. It gave him his very characteristic sense of the dramatic and his skill in dialogue. Foreign theatre companies included Helsinki in their tours at the time, and their varied programmes comprised both the classics and light comedies and operettas. Topelius later wrote a short memoir - Scenens nomader i Finland ('Nomads of the Stage in Finland'; 1890) on the subject.

An important source of inspiration of a different nature was provided by his passionate attachment to the beautiful, dark-haired Greta Kahra, daughter of an innkeeper in Alavus, whom he met briefly several times on his trips between Helsinki and Uusikaarlepyy. Topelius even dreamt of marrying her. He finally accepted the social impossibility of his plan; but for the rest of his life, his memory of Greta evidently acted as a clasp that bound him to the Finnish-speaking common people and as an inspiration for the Fennomania of his youth. Topelius' socially normal engagement in 1842 and marriage in 1845 to Emilie Lindqvist, the daughter of a merchant in his home town, was based on a different, restrained kind of love.

Topelius received his Master's degree in summer 1840 at the time of the University's great 200th-anniversary celebrations, which made a deep impression on him. The presence of Frans Mikael Franzén lent a Swedish tone to the festivities, but an even greater impact was made by the many Russian guests from the coterie of Alexander Pushkin. Similar emotions were aroused in 1842 by the visit - as chancellor of the University - of the heir to the throne, Grand Duke Alexander Nikolayevich, a contemporary of Topelius. At that time Topelius was writing poems in praise of the Emperor Nicholas and the Russian Empire; his father had been particularly keen that his son should study Russian. In a long poem written in 1844 for the degree-conferring ceremony, Topelius combines Russian, pan-Finnish and general European themes in an interesting though not yet mature fashion; he was already disillusioned with Sweden after his trip there in 1843, and in his early Fennoman period he wrote negatively about the whole of Germanic culture.

A decisive point in Topelius' life came in 1841, when the bookseller Gustaf Otto Wasenius took him on as editor of the lightweight Helsingfors Tidningar newspaper. Topelius took quickly to the new, middle-class notion of 'the public' and to the new technology then being developed by the press in France and elsewhere in Europe. His paper was mainly devoted to summarising articles from the foreign press, but Topelius succeeded in achieving a flavour that was often dramatic or light and chatty, and the paper's circulation soon began to rise. Especially great popularity was achieved by the serialised 'Letters to Lieutenant Leopold in Georgia', which described Helsinki life. However, Topelius also gradually began devoting ever more attention to social issues and topics involving trade, transport and education as well, practising 'investigative journalism' in his series of articles concerning the financial situation of students or the housing conditions of the poor. He encouraged mothers to teach their children Finnish; and interestingly, he predicted the need for university faculties of agriculture-forestry and economics.

A very important aspect was that Topelius published poems of his in the paper and above all that he also began publishing 'feuilletons' (serialised stories), as Alexandre Dumas senior and many other famous authors were doing at the time. The first of these were Gamla baron på Rautakylä ('The Old Baron of Rautakylä') and Hertiginnan af Finland ('The Duchess of Finland'). The latter was published in book form in 1851. This year also saw the start of publication of the much more ambitious Fältskärns berättelser, initially planned as a comprehensive history of Sweden (Finland) and describing the struggle between the social classes. It was published as a series of books in 1853 - 67. Along with and after the above-mentioned stories there appeared - first in the Helsingfors Tidningar and then in other papers (in Sweden as well) - a number of feuilleton novels, such as Gröna kammaren på Linnais gård ('The Green Room at Linnais Manor'), Tant Mirabeau ('Aunt Mirabeau'), Vernas rosor ('Verna's Roses'), Det gyllene spöket ('The Golden Wraith'), Pastorsvalet i Aulango ('The Election of the Pastor of Aulanko'), Kungens handske ('The King's Glove') and Vincent Vågbrytaren ('Vincent the Wave-Cleaver'). Most of these were subsequently published in the form of the Vinterqvällen ('Winter Evening') books. Finally the lengthy Planeternas skyddslingar ('Protégés of the Planets') appeared in 1886. In these stories, Topelius' imagination and knowledge of history, his plot development and the wittiness of his dialogue, the intriguing mysteries and the wealth of humorous elements combine - in the spirit of Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and other luminaries of the era - to form exciting and entertaining wholes which at the same time appeal to the reader's sense of morality.

Topelius' chatty style of journalism and his serialised stories addressed - to some extent quite consciously - an increasingly important female readership. He also began to write for children at an early stage. His first collections appeared as illustrated books as far back as 1847, 1848, 1849 and 1852 (Sagor; 'Stories'). A new series entitled Läsning för barn ('Reading for Children') was published in 1865, 1866, 1867, 1871, 1880, 1884, 1891 and 1896; these anthologies do not contain all of the fairy stories and children's poems published by Topelius in children's magazines and elsewhere. In Topelius' fairy stories, the children are energetic and enterprising; Topelius' neohumanist pedagogical programme stressed an integrated approach to upbringing and learning based on positive character formation. He opposed dead and scattered fragments of knowledge, negativeness and cynicism. Like many of his contemporaries, he harshly criticised the superficial, egoistic and aristocratic cultural tradition of the Enlightenment - the spirit of Voltaire - in his fairy stories, novels and poems (for example, in the poem Voltaires hjärta; 'Voltaire's Heart').

Topelius began writing poetry at an early age, but understandably only a small fraction of his early poetry was included in collections and later in the first four volumes (1904 - ) of his collected works (Samlade arbeten). He made his debut in 1845 with his first Ljungblommor ('Heather Blossom') collection, the second volume of which appeared in 1850, and the third in 1854. Before his books of poetry, Topelius had already published his graduation poem and other verse in a collection entitled Necken. Topelius' early poetry is characterised by an unforced, freely flowing lyricism, by themes involving love and Nature, winter, spring and the sea - and also by ideas associated with history, a subject in which he was becoming ever more interested. The growing interest in politics at that time and Topelius' return to university life as acting curator (vice-president) of his Students' Association in 1843 - 47 are reflected in some unpublished poems, especially in his Marseillaise (1844), which contains clichés on the subject of liberty that are typical of the era.

During the 1840s Topelius' political views manifested themselves in different ways, all of which demonstrate his great ability to take things in quickly, and also his versatility. To some extent quite calculatingly and for journalistic reasons, he used the Helsingfors Tidningar to engage in constant polemics against Snellman's Saima newspaper. As a student leader he was inspired by the Russian Finno-Ugric vistas opened up by Matthias Alexander Castrén, Elias Lönnrot and Runeberg, though at the same time he kept abreast of the rise of the Left in Western Europe. His thinking was clearly inspired by Hegel. As far as his view of nationality was concerned, this fact manifested itself, for example, in the lecture entitled Äger Finska folket en historie? ('Does the Finnish people have a history?') which he gave at the annual celebration of his Students' Association in 1843 (published in 1845). In many of his poems he predicted a storm, i.e. a revolution. At first he welcomed the idea, but later, after the outbreak of the February Revolution, he espoused the loyalist-Finnish line during the spring celebrations of 1848.

In 1845 Topelius applied for the position of history teacher at the senior grammar school that had been founded in Vaasa, and he gave demonstration lessons for the Turku Cathedral Chapter - but without success. Two years later he gained his doctorate with a 52-page treatise in Latin dealing with the history of marriage and the position of women amongst the ancient Finns. He taught History and Swedish at the Helsingfors Lyceum secondary school from 1846 to 1850, also working part time as a temporary assistant at the University Library.

In 1852 he again applied for a teaching position in Vaasa and was appointed. Because of a fire in Vaasa, the school was temporarily operating in Pietarsaari, and Topelius was in the process of moving there when - during a visit by the Emperor to Helsinki and its Viapori Fortress after the outbreak of the Crimean War - he was unexpectedly appointed to a personal chair in Finnish History on 15 March 1854. Fredrik Cygnaeus, who had just become a professor and had close contacts with the highest political circles, had stressed the point that Topelius was an important leader of public opinion and must therefore be kept in Helsinki. Topelius himself had said to Cygnaeus that he could be of assistance as a teacher of Swedish at the University; now he was appointed by invitation to the University's first personal chair. He had a doctorate in History; in its book version, his Hertiginnan af Finland also contained his treatise on the war of 1741 - 43; and his Fältskärns berättelser stories and his historical plays demonstrated his expertise in both history and the philosophy of history. Topelius' most extensive piece of scholarship was the geographical and historical introduction to the illustrated work Finland framstäldt i teckningar, published in 1845 - 52. Topelius later exploited and further developed this research of his in his lectures on Geography and subsequently both in his books intended for young people (for instance, Boken om vårt land) and in those aimed at the general public and foreign readers, such as his massive Finland i det XIX seklet ('Finland in the 19th Century'), written in the 1890s. His interest in geography is also apparent in many of his novels.

Topelius' appointment as professor attracted positive interest, as it accorded with many manifestations of the 'Finnishness' movement of the period (including a new chair of Finnish Language and Literature). But it was soon also being interpreted as a reward for Topelius' political stance. In poems written after his appointment, he adopted a clearly pro-Russian position opposed to Turkey and the Western powers. This fitted in well both with his previous views - his belief in realpolitik and his attachment to the Imperial House - and with public opinion, which had been inflamed by the destructive British raids against the merchant fleets and coasts of Finland, especially in Ostrobothnia. In addition, many of his relatives were officers in the Imperial army and navy. Topelius also regarded the conflict as a religious war against Islam. The climate of politics and public opinion during the war years was, however, burdensome for Topelius. He concentrated on writing fairy stories, producing almost sixty fairy stories and children's poems in 1854 - 56 for the children's paper Eos. In 1856 he also wrote the first of his two textbooks (Naturens bok; 'Nature's Book' - the second was Boken om vårt land). These were aimed at meeting the needs of elementary instruction and were published in many editions. The Sylvia poems also date from this period; they include the poems in praise of patriotism no. 3 En sommardag i Kangasala ('A Summer Day at Kangasala'), no. 9 Sylvias hälsning från Sicilien/Sylvias julhälsning ('Sylvia's Christmas Greeting from Sicily') and no. 15 Under rönn och syren ('Under Rowan and Lilac'), all of which are known and loved as songs.

Before his appointment as a professor, his plays Efter femtio år ('After Fifty Years'; staged in Helsinki in 1851), Kung Carls Jagt ('King Charles' Hunt'; 1852) and Regina von Emmeritz (1853) had already made Topelius the most prominent dramatist in Finland. The second of these, with music by Fredrik Pacius, was Finland's first opera. It was later performed a number of times in both Swedish and Finnish (and also in Sweden) and was issued as a CD in 1991. Later he wrote the operetta Princessan af Cypern ('The Princess of Cyprus'), also to music by Pacius. In contrast to the romantically patriotic Kung Carls Jagt, Princessan af Cypern, with its Offenbachian pastiche of Kalevalan and Greek myths, is deliberately light and cheerfully entertaining. It includes the well-known romantic number O barn af Hellas ('O Child of Hellas').

The accession of a new Emperor in 1855 and the conclusion of peace in 1856 inspired Topelius. In March 1856, reworking old themes of his, he published his Islossningen i Uleå elf ('The Breaking of the Ice on the River Uleå'), a poem symbolically describing the coming of a new age. In May he left on his first trip further afield than Sweden. It lasted ten weeks and took him from Lübeck - by a new form of transport, the train - through western Germany and Belgium to Paris and then back to the North via Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Topelius especially admired Brussels and Belgium, then still a new state. In Paris he chanced to see the French Emperor and Empress and "tried to make friends" with workers, believing that "their day would come again". He published an extensive series of articles entitled Söderom Östersjön ('South of the Baltic') in his paper. Later, in 1862, Topelius travelled to London from the west coast of Sweden, where he was staying mainly for the sake of his wife's health. In addition to making several trips to Sweden, Topelius visited St Petersburg in 1874 (he had already made a brief visit to Tallinn in 1845). And he again went on two major European trips: in 1875 - 76 to France and as far as Florence in Italy, as well as to Switzerland and Germany in the footsteps of Gustavus II Adolphus; and in 1886 to Switzerland and the Nordic countries.

Topelius gave up the editorship the Helsingfors Tidningar in 1860, for various reasons. He was concentrating on the work involved in his professorship, which was transformed into a regular chair in 1863. At the same time the death of two of his children and his wife's deteriorating health made him despondent, and the rapidly developing world of politics began to demand a type of journalism different from that which Topelius' one-man newspaper could provide. Nevertheless, Topelius retained his journalistic bent for the rest of his life, keeping up his various diaries and writing busily for newspapers. Politically he remained chiefly a 'Bonapartist', stressing the link between monarch and people and criticising the selfishness and materialism of the dominant propertied classes between them. In this regard, he stood close to the Fennoman movement; he did indeed believe that the Finnish language would become the main vehicle for the nation's cultural life, though he stressed the Swedish heritage and the historical and cultural importance of the Swedish language in Finland. Topelius opposed linguistic nationalism and emphasised a patriotism closely linked to love for the ruler and reverence for God. He thought it especially important to accentuate the historical unity of the Finnish people, despite the linguistic and social differences.

Plutocracy, wasteful lifestyles, excessive individualism and the naturalism and biology-oriented world view of the 1880s were criticised by Topelius both in his fairy stories and poems and in his articles; and in 1885-87 he was involved in founding and editing the Swedish-language, pro-Finnish newspaper Finland, which was conservative in its values. Topelius anticipated a great social revolution and the coming of a new era in his poems Kommunismens vagga ('The Cradle of Communism'; 1884) and Rigi Kulm (1885) and in his 1894 graduation-ceremony poem Sanningen i går, i dag och i morgon ('The Truth Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow'). His posthumously published Blad ur min tänkebok ('Leaves from my Book of Thoughts') reflects such sentiments.

During his time as curator of his Students' Association, Topelius, who had originally planned on a career as a doctor, was also the secretary of the Societas pro fauna et flora fennica. He resigned from these positions in 1847, when he became the first secretary of the Finnish Art Society (Suomen Taideyhdistys), a position which he held until 1869. From 1853 to 1866 he was also secretary of the Helsinki Gentlewomen's Society. To Topelius, both of these associations represented important new social ideas. He was particularly interested in the position and education of women; the Gentlewomen's Society offered (upper-class) women the first opportunity for organised public activity, in the form of philanthropic work. In Topelius' fairy stories - and also his novels - girls and women often represent initiative and resourcefulness, in contrast to the clumsy boys. In Tant Mirabeau, Topelius even has Mr Damm claim that in a hundred years' time there will be more female than male doctors. Topelius supported 'Finland's first feminist', Marie Linder, in the 1860s and the first genuine woman teacher, Emma Irene Åström, in the 1870s; and he also worked on behalf of girls' schools. And it was precisely in girls' schools that a real Topelius cult emerged.

In the Finnish Art Society, where he worked in close collaboration with Fredrik Cygnaeus and enjoyed support from high quarters, Topelius exercised an important influence during the early years of the visual arts and art education in Finland. He also became the first chairman (until 1889) of the Artists' Association (Taiteilijaseura), founded in 1864 and bringing together artists from all fields. He was the first chairman of the Finnish Antiquarian Society (Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys), founded in 1870, and later a board member of the National Board of Antiquities (Muinaistieteellinen Toimikunta; later the Museovirasto). Public interest in art and artists and in national history and monuments reached a climax with the erection of monuments to Runeberg and Alexander II in the 1880s and 1890s. Associated with this trend are Topelius' great commemorative speeches - especially those held at the University - and his obituaries of Alexander I, Runeberg, Lönnrot, Alexander II and Snellman (read at his funeral), as well as his semester opening speeches as rector of the University.

Topelius was rector from 1875 to 1878, but he was not elected again as the first-ranking candidate. Dissatisfaction was presumably aroused by his sympathetic attitude towards the radical-Fennoman student movement and by his opinion, expressed during the memorial ceremony for Runeberg, that when the song 'Our Country' (Vårt Land; in Finnish, Maamme) received the "higher reverberation" referred to in this anthem, it would express "a more united and general national awareness" and would come "to be sung in Finnish in the Finland of the future". When Topelius resigned from the University shortly afterwards, all the Students' Associations except that of Uusimaa held a joint celebration in his honour at the Students' Union building. Amongst the Uusimaa students and in Suecoman circles in general, Topelius' loyalty to the Emperor had already aroused opposition, which was now reinforced by his positive attitude towards the Finnish language.

Another aspect of Topelius' social activism was his espousal of the idea of animal protection. He combined this with the mobilisation of children when, in 1870, he founded the May Associations (Majföreningar). In these groups, children were to learn to protect and care for small birds and thus to develop a general feeling of concern for and solidarity with both Nature and their fellow humans. In many of his poems and fairy stories - for example, in Björken och stjärnan ('The Birch and the Star') and his Sylvia poems - little birds were representatives of a religious message. This tied in with the simplicity and closeness to ordinary people - the childlike faith - emphasised by Topelius in his religious view of the world. His hymnal work also highlighted this aspect. He was a member of the Swedish-language hymnal committee from 1867 onwards and in 1876 became the chairman of a new committee. Under consideration by this committee were 43 original hymns by Topelius and 15 translated by him; the final Swedish hymnal of 1886 contained 31 of his hymns and 13 of his translations. Some of Topelius' hymns were also included in the Finnish hymnal. The best-known are the Christmas hymn Gif mig ej guld ej glans... ('I seek not power, nor glory') and the school hymn Sannigens ande ('Spirit of Truth'), both of which have also entered the hymnals of Sweden and Norway. From a theological viewpoint, Topelius' hymns were criticised for being too similar to folk songs and for a lack of profundity and religious content. In Topelius' ideological world, patriotism and faith in Providence coalesced to an ever greater degree, so that in later life he believed that the Finns were, along with the Jews, a second "chosen people".

Upon his resignation from the University, Topelius received the title of Councillor of State normally awarded to a single-term rector. In the previous year he had been awarded the Order of St Anna, Second Class, an honour customarily granted to senior professors. Apart from several honorary memberships and two prizes awarded by the Swedish Academy, he did not receive any particularly important public tributes during his lifetime. Neither the Finnish Society of Science and Letters (Suomen Tiedeseura) nor the (Stockholm) Royal Academy of History and Literature (Kungliga Vitterhetsakademien) elected him as a member; he was made an honorary member of the Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura) and later also of the Swedish Literature Society of Finland (Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland). Among Swedish-speakers, Topelius enjoyed much greater appreciation in primary schools and among ordinary people than within the cultural élite. And indeed, he considered that he was not adequately appreciated by his contemporaries. This was partly due to the fact that after his departure from the University under somewhat embarrassing circumstances, he withdrew from Helsinki to Sipoo, where he had acquired Björkudden Farm. It was really not until his 80th-birthday celebrations and the imposing funeral ceremonies that immediately followed them that widespread appreciation of Topelius was demonstrated. "The women of Finland" erected a monument to him at Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.

Even at an early date, Topelius was considered a successor and armour-bearer to the older generation of great men - Runeberg, Lönnrot, Snellman and Cygnaeus. The popularity that he achieved with his fairy stories, his novels (which soon came to be regarded as literature for young people) and his stage works early on endowed him with the image of a benign old fairy-story figure. In his old age, it was specifically as a master of the fairy story that Topelius was admired, as a master whose works had already become familiar to many new generations of readers in Finland - and to a large extent in Sweden and Norway as well. The fairy stories and fairy plays remained a central cultural feature in Finnish homes and schools up to the 1950s, and they were illustrated by many well-known artists - including Albert Edelfelt and Carl Larsson. The moral and pedagogical message of the fairy stories began to be accepted as a self-evident truth. The emphasis placed on Topelius as a writer of fairy tales rather than as a journalist, professor and social activist was illustrated very clearly in 1929 - 32, when Gunnar Finne won the competition for a Topelius monument, and his sculpture named 'Fiction and Truth' (Satu ja Totuus) was erected in Esplanadi Park: the public demanded and got a copy (the original is in Vaasa) of Ville Vallgren's 'Topelius with Children' (Topelius lasten parissa), situated in the small park off Ratakatu Street.

But there were also features of Topelius' character that not everybody liked: many thought that he was too conciliatory; he did not look his partner in the eyes during a conversation; his voice and manner were too placid, colourless and stiff; and so forth. The Artists' Association, where he often lingered over his wine deep into the night, was one place where he was cheerful and uninhibited. In his perceptive essay dealing with assessments of Topelius, E. G. Palmén points out that Topelius's merits as a historian and his contribution to literature were belittled because of their 'unscholarliness' and the youth of his readership, but that his moral and patriotic influence increased enormously as time passed, and that his critics were forced to recognise this. Historians of more recent times have often had to grant that Topelius' keen instinct enables him to understand past phenomena and structures absolutely correctly.

Matti Klinge

Translated by Roderick Fletcher


Zacharias (Zachris, Z.) Topelius, born 14.1.1818 Uusikaarlepyy, died 12.3.1898 Sipoo. Parents: Zacharias Topelius, district doctor, and Catharina Sofia Calamnius. Wife: 1845 - 1885 Maria Emilie Lindqvist, died 1885, wife's parents: Isak Lindqvist, merchant, and Johanna Sofia Kyntzell. Children: Aina (Nyberg), born 1846; Michael, born 1848, died 1850; Toini, died 1854, writer; Eva (Acke), born 1855; Rafael, born 1857, died 1858; Rosa, born 1859, died 1862.

© Biografiakeskus, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, PL 259, 00171 HELSINKI

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