The seventeenth-century Danish noblewoman Birgitte Thott was the foremost Danish learned woman of her day, a “femina docta”, a “femina illustris”. She is one of the few Danish women whose passing was marked with tribute poems in Latin, and probably the only one to have been honoured by poems in Greek too. She would have been delighted by the poems. In her treatise Om et lyksaligt liv (On a Happy Life), she praises the Romans for having introduced a law stating that women should also be accorded funeral orations in which they are praised according to their deserts, just like men. A long, printed funeral address in Latin by professor at Sorø Academy Jørgen Rosenkrantz has been preserved. The text provides an impression of her life. Funeral oration is by nature a eulogistic genre with scope for exaggeration, but Birgitte Thott’s language skills have been corroborated by so many others that we may take Rosenkrantz at his word. Her translations speak for themselves in bearing out her talents, even though they might not cover all the languages she apparently actually spoke.
Fredrika Bremer has won respect as a personality, as a letter writer, and as a writer of travel accounts. But as soon as it comes to her novels, reservations usually begin to make their appearance. The only exceptions made are usually for Grannarne (1837; Eng. tr. The Neighbours) and Hemmet (1839; Eng. tr. The Home). With these books, she became one of the world’s most read novelists. No Swedish author, not even Selma Lagerlöf, has enjoyed as much success in the English-speaking world. Few Swedish authors have been translated into so many languages.All of Fredrika Bremer’s production may be read in the light of a Realist and a Romantic code. On the one hand, she examines the woman’s position in society, her right to education and personal development. On the other hand, she is preoccupied with the right of the inner life as opposed to the outer life and with the possibilities for passion, the female heart, and the female fire to overturn the existing state of things. It is not balance that constitutes Fredrika Bremer’s originality. Rather, it is the very agitation in the books that captures the reader. She was a passionate being – both as an intellectual and in her search for freedom.