Part 1 out of 5
This Etext was produced by Douglas Levy.
By Henrik Ibsen
Translated by Edmund Gosse and William Archer
Introduction by William Archer
From Munich, on June 29, 1890, Ibsen wrote to the Swedish poet, Count
Carl Soilsky: "Our intention has all along been to spend the summer
in the Tyrol again. But circumstances are against our doing so. I
am at present engaged upon a new dramatic work, which for several
reasons has made very slow progress, and I do not leave Munich until
I can take with me the completed first draft. There is little or no
prospect of my being able to complete it in July." Ibsen did not
leave Munich at all that season. On October 30 he wrote: "At present
I am utterly engrossed in a new play. Not one leisure hour have I
had for several months." Three weeks later (November 20) he wrote
to his French translator, Count Prozor: "My new play is finished; the
manuscript went off to Copenhagen the day before yesterday. . . . It
produces a curious feeling of emptiness to be thus suddenly separated
from a work which has occupied one's time and thoughts for several
months, to the exclusion of all else. But it is a good thing, too,
to have done with it. The constant intercourse with the fictitious
personages was beginning to make me quite nervous." To the same
correspondent he wrote on December 4: "The title of the play is
_Hedda Gabler_. My intention in giving it this name was to indicate
that Hedda, as a personality, is to be regarded rather as her father's
daughter than as her husband's wife. It was not my desire to deal in
this play with so-called problems. What I principally wanted to do
was to depict human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon
a groundwork of certain of the social conditions and principles of
the present day."
So far we read the history of the play in the official
"Correspondence."(1) Some interesting glimpses into the poet's moods
during the period between the completion of _The Lady from the Sea_
and the publication of _Hedda Gabler_ are to be found in the series
of letters to Fraulein Emilie Bardach, of Vienna, published by Dr.
George Brandes.(2) This young lady Ibsen met at Gossensass in the
Tyrol in the autumn of 1889. The record of their brief friendship
belongs to the history of _The Master Builder_ rather than to that of
_Hedda Gabler_, but the allusions to his work in his letters to her
during the winter of 1889 demand some examination.
So early as October 7, 1889, he writes to her: "A new poem begins to
dawn in me. I will execute it this winter, and try to transfer to it
the bright atmosphere of the summer. But I feel that it will end in
sadness--such is my nature." Was this "dawning" poem _Hedda Gabler_?
Or was it rather _The Master Builder_ that was germinating in his
mind? Who shall say? The latter hypothesis seems the more probable,
for it is hard to believe that at any stage in the incubation of
_Hedda Gabler_ he can have conceived it as even beginning in gaiety.
A week later, however, he appears to have made up his mind that the
time had not come for the poetic utilisation of his recent experiences.
He writes on October 15: "Here I sit as usual at my writing-table.
Now I would fain work, but am unable to. My fancy, indeed, is very
active. But it always wanders awayours. I cannot repress my summer
memories--nor do I wish to. I live through my experience again and
again and yet again. To transmute it all into a poem, I find, in the
meantime, impossible." Clearly, then, he felt that his imagination
ought to have been engaged on some theme having no relation to his
summer experiences--the theme, no doubt, of _Hedda Gabler_. In his
next letter, dated October 29, he writes: "Do not be troubled because
I cannot, in the meantime, create (_dichten_). In reality I am for
ever creating, or, at any rate, dreaming of something which, when in
the fulness of time it ripens, will reveal itself as a creation
(_Dichtung_)." On November 19 he says: "I am very busily occupied
with preparations for my new poem. I sit almost the whole day at my
writing-table. Go out only in the evening for a little while." The
five following letters contain no allusion to the play; but on
September 18, 1890, he wrote: "My wife and son are at present at
Riva, on the Lake of Garda, and will probably remain there until the
middle of October, or even longer. Thus I am quite alone here, and
cannot get away. The new play on which I am at present engaged will
probably not be ready until November, though I sit at my writing-
table daily, and almost the whole day long."
Here ends the history of _Hedda Gabler_, so far as the poet's letters
carry us. Its hard clear outlines, and perhaps somewhat bleak
atmosphere, seem to have resulted from a sort of reaction against
the sentimental "dreamery" begotten of his Gossensass experiences.
He sought refuge in the chill materialism of Hedda from the ardent
transcendentalism of Hilda, whom he already heard knocking at the
door. He was not yet in the mood to deal with her on the plane of
_Hedda Gabler_ was published in Copenhagen on December 16, 1890.
This was the first of Ibsen's plays to be translated from proof-
sheets and published in England and America almost simultaneously
with its first appearance in Scandinavia. The earliest theatrical
performance took place at the Residenz Theater, Munich, on the last
day of January 1891, in the presence of the poet, Frau Conrad-Ramlo
playing the title-part. The Lessing Theater, Berlin, followed suit
on February 10. Not till February 25 was the play seen in Copenhagen,
with Fru Hennings as Hedda. On the following night it was given for
the first time in Christiania, the Norwegian Hedda being Froken
Constance Bruun. It was this production which the poet saw when he
visited the Christiania Theater for the first time after his return
to Norway, August 28, 1891. It would take pages to give even the
baldest list of the productions and revivals of _Hedda Gabler_ in
Scandinavia and Germany, where it has always ranked among Ibsen's
most popular works. The admirable production of the play by Miss
Elizabeth Robins and Miss Marion Lea, at the Vaudeville Theatre,
London, April 20, 1891, may rank as the second great step towards the
popularisation of Ibsen in England, the first being the Charrington-
Achurch production of _A Doll's House_ in 1889. Miss Robins
afterwards repeated her fine performance of Hedda many times, in
London, in the English provinces, and in New York. The character has
also been acted in London by Eleonora Duse, and as I write (March, 5,
1907) by Mrs. Patrick Campbell, at the Court Theatre. In Australia
and America, Hedda has frequently been acted by Miss Nance O'Neill
and other actresses--quite recently by a Russian actress, Madame Alla
Nazimova, who (playing in English) seems to have made a notable
success both in this part and in Nora. The first French Hedda Gabler
was Mlle. Marthe Brandes, who played the part at the Vaudeville
Theatre, Paris, on December 17, 1891, the performance being introduced
by a lecture by M. Jules Lemaitre. In Holland, in Italy, in Russia,
the play has been acted times without number. In short (as might
easily have been foretold) it has rivalled _A Doll's House_ in world-
It has been suggested,(4) I think without sufficient ground, that Ibsen
deliberately conceived _Hedda Gabler_ as an "international" play, and
that the scene is really the "west end" of any European city. To me
it seems quite clear that Ibsen had Christiania in mind, and the
Christiania of a somewhat earlier period than the 'nineties. The
electric cars, telephones, and other conspicuous factors in the life
of a modern capital are notably absent from the play. There is no
electric light in Secretary Falk's villa. It is still the habit for
ladies to return on foot from evening parties, with gallant swains
escorting them. This "suburbanism," which so distressed the London
critics of 1891, was characteristic of the Christiania Ibsen himself
had known in the 'sixties--the Christiania of _Love's Comedy_--rather
than of the greatly extended and modernised city of the end of the
century. Moreover Lovborg's allusions to the fiord, and the suggested
picture of Sheriff Elvsted, his family and his avocations are all
distinctively Norwegian. The truth seems to be very simple--the
environment and the subsidiary personages are all thoroughly national,
but Hedda herself is an "international" type, a product of civilisation
by no means peculiar to Norway.
We cannot point to any individual model or models who "sat to" Ibsen
for the character of Hedda.(5) The late Grant Allen declared that
Hedda was "nothing more nor less than the girl we take down to dinner
in London nineteen times out of twenty"; in which case Ibsen must
have suffered from a superfluidity of models, rather than from any
difficulty in finding one. But the fact is that in this, as in all
other instances, the word "model" must be taken in a very different
sense from that in which it is commonly used in painting. Ibsen
undoubtedly used models for this trait and that, but never for a
whole figure. If his characters can be called portraits at all, they
are composite portraits. Even when it seems pretty clear that the
initial impulse towards the creation of a particular character came
from some individual, the original figure is entirely transmuted in
the process of harmonisation with the dramatic scheme. We need not,
therefore, look for a definite prototype of Hedda; but Dr. Brandes
shows that two of that lady's exploits were probably suggested by
the anecdotic history of the day.
Ibsen had no doubt heard how the wife of a well-known Norwegian
composer, in a fit of raging jealousy excited by her husband's
prolonged absence from home, burnt the manuscript of a symphony
which he had just finished. The circumstances under which Hedda
burns Lovborg's manuscript are, of course, entirely different and
infinitely more dramatic; but here we have merely another instance
of the dramatisation or "poetisation" of the raw material of life.
Again, a still more painful incident probably came to his knowledge
about the same time. A beautiful and very intellectual woman was
married to a well-known man who had been addicted to drink, but had
entirely conquered the vice. One day a mad whim seized her to put
his self-mastery and her power over him to the test. As it happened
to be his birthday, she rolled into his study a small keg of brandy,
and then withdrew. She returned some time after wards to find that
he had broached the keg, and lay insensible on the floor. In this
anecdote we cannot but recognise the germ, not only of Hedda's
temptation of Lovborg, but of a large part of her character.
"Thus," says Dr. Brandes, "out of small and scattered traits of
reality Ibsen fashioned his close-knit and profoundly thought-out
works of art."
For the character of Eilert Lovborg, again, Ibsen seem unquestionably
to have borrowed several traits from a definite original. A young
Danish man of letters, whom Dr. Brandes calls Holm, was an
enthusiastic admirer of Ibsen, and came to be on very friendly terms
with him. One day Ibsen was astonished to receive, in Munich, a
parcel addressed from Berlin by this young man, containing, without
a word of explanation, a packet of his (Ibsen's) letters, and a
photograph which he had presented to Holm. Ibsen brooded and brooded
over the incident, and at last came to the conclusion that the young
man had intended to return her letters and photograph to a young lady
to whom he was known to be attached, and had in a fit of aberration
mixed up the two objects of his worship. Some time after, Holm
appeared at Ibsen's rooms. He talked quite rationally, but professed
to have no knowledge whatever of the letter-incident, though he
admitted the truth of Ibsen's conjecture that the "belle dame sans
merci" had demanded the return of her letters and portrait. Ibsen
was determined to get at the root of the mystery; and a little inquiry
into his young friend's habits revealed the fact that he broke his
fast on a bottle of port wine, consumed a bottle of Rhine wine at
lunch, of Burgundy at dinner, and finished off the evening with one
or two more bottles of port. Then he heard, too, how, in the course
of a night's carouse, Holm had lost the manuscript of a book; and in
these traits he saw the outline of the figure of Eilert Lovborg.
Some time elapsed, and again Ibsen received a postal packet from Holm.
This one contained his will, in which Ibsen figured as his residuary
legatee. But many other legatees were mentioned in the instrument--
all of them ladies, such as Fraulein Alma Rothbart, of Bremen, and
Fraulein Elise Kraushaar, of Berlin. The bequests to these meritorious
spinsters were so generous that their sum considerably exceeded the
amount of the testator's property. Ibsen gently but firmly declined
the proffered inheritance; but Holm's will no doubt suggested to him
the figure of that red-haired "Mademoiselle Diana," who is heard of
but not seen in _Hedda Gabler_, and enabled him to add some further
traits to the portraiture of Lovborg. When the play appeared, Holm
recognised himself with glee in the character of the bibulous man of
letters, and thereafter adopted "Eilert Lovborg" as his pseudonym. I
do not, therefore, see why Dr. Brandes should suppress his real name;
but I willingly imitate him in erring on the side of discretion. The
poor fellow died several years ago.
Some critics have been greatly troubled as to the precise meaning of
Hedda's fantastic vision of Lovborg "with vine-leaves in his hair."
Surely this is a very obvious image or symbol of the beautiful, the
ideal, aspect of bacchic elation and revelry. Antique art, or I am
much mistaken, shows us many figures of Dionysus himself and his
followers with vine-leaves entwined their hair. To Ibsen's mind, at
any rate, the image had long been familiar. In _Peer Gynt_ (Act iv.
sc. 8), when Peer, having carried off Anitra, finds himself in a
particularly festive mood, he cries: "Were there vine-leaves around,
I would garland my brow." Again, in _Emperor and Galilean_ (Pt. ii.
Act 1) where Julian, in the procession of Dionysus, impersonates the
god himself, it is directed that he shall wear a wreath of vine-
leaves. Professor Dietrichson relates that among the young artists
whose society Ibsen frequented during his first years in Rome, it
was customary, at their little festivals, for the revellers to deck
themselves in this fashion. But the image is so obvious that there
is no need to trace it to any personal experience. The attempt to
place Hedda's vine-leaves among Ibsen's obscurities is an example of
the firm resolution not to understand which animated the criticism
of the 'nineties.
Dr. Brandes has dealt very severely with the character of Eilert
Lovborg, alleging that we cannot believe in the genius attributed
to him. But where is he described as a genius? The poet represents
him as a very able student of sociology; but that is quite a different
thing from attributing to him such genius as must necessarily shine
forth in every word he utters. Dr. Brandes, indeed, declines to
believe even in his ability as a sociologist, on the ground that it
is idle to write about the social development of the future. "To
our prosaic minds," he says, "it may seem as if the most sensible
utterance on the subject is that of the fool of the play: 'The future!
Good heavens, we know nothing of the future.'" The best retort to
this criticism is that which Eilert himself makes: "There's a thing
or two to be said about it all the same." The intelligent forecasting
of the future (as Mr. H. G. Wells has shown) is not only clearly
distinguishable from fantastic Utopianism, but is indispensable to
any large statesmanship or enlightened social activity. With very
real and very great respect for Dr. Brandes, I cannot think that he
has been fortunate in his treatment of Lovborg's character. It has
been represented as an absurdity that he would think of reading
abstracts from his new book to a man like Tesman, whom he despises.
But though Tesman is a ninny, he is, as Hedda says, a "specialist"--
he is a competent, plodding student of his subject. Lovborg may
quite naturally wish to see how his new method, or his excursion
into a new field, strikes the average scholar of the Tesman type.
He is, in fact, "trying it on the dog"--neither an unreasonable nor
an unusual proceeding. There is, no doubt, a certain improbability
in the way in which Lovborg is represented as carrying his manuscript
around, and especially in Mrs. Elvsted's production of his rough
draft from her pocket; but these are mechanical trifles, on which
only a niggling criticism would dream of laying stress.
Of all Ibsen's works, _Hedda Gabler_ is the most detached, the most
objective--a character-study pure and simple. It is impossible--or
so it seems to me--to extract any sort of general idea from it. One
cannot even call it a satire, unless one is prepared to apply that
term to the record of a "case" in a work of criminology. Reverting
to Dumas's dictum that a play should contain "a painting, a judgment,
an ideal," we may say the _Hedda Gabler_ fulfils only the first of
these requirements. The poet does not even pass judgment on his
heroine: he simply paints her full-length portrait with scientific
impassivity. But what a portrait! How searching in insight, how
brilliant in colouring, how rich in detail! Grant Allen's remark,
above quoted, was, of course, a whimsical exaggeration; the Hedda
type is not so common as all that, else the world would quickly
come to an end. But particular traits and tendencies of the Hedda
type are very common in modern life, and not only among women.
Hyperaesthesia lies at the root of her tragedy. With a keenly
critical, relentlessly solvent intelligence, she combines a morbid
shrinking from all the gross and prosaic detail of the sensual life.
She has nothing to take her out of herself--not a single intellectual
interest or moral enthusiasm. She cherishes, in a languid way, a
petty social ambition; and even that she finds obstructed and
baffled. At the same time she learns that another woman has had
the courage to love and venture all, where she, in her cowardice,
only hankered and refrained. Her malign egoism rises up uncontrolled,
and calls to its aid her quick and subtle intellect. She ruins the
other woman's happiness, but in doing so incurs a danger from which
her sense of personal dignity revolts. Life has no such charm for
her that she cares to purchase it at the cost of squalid humiliation
and self-contempt. The good and the bad in her alike impel her to
have done with it all; and a pistol-shot ends what is surely one of
the most poignant character-tragedies in literature. Ibsen's brain
never worked at higher pressure than in the conception and adjustment
of those "crowded hours" in which Hedda, tangled in the web of Will
and Circumstance, struggles on till she is too weary to struggle any
It may not be superfluous to note that the "a" in "Gabler" should be
sounded long and full, like the "a" in "Garden"--NOT like the "a" in
"gable" or in "gabble."
(1)Letters 214, 216, 217, 219.
(2)In the Ibsen volume of _Die Literatur_ (Berlin).
(3)Dr. Julius Elias (_Neue deutsche Rundschau_, December 1906, p. 1462)
makes the curious assertion that the character of Thea Elvsted was
in part borrowed from this "Gossensasser Hildetypus." It is hard to
see how even Gibes' ingenuity could distil from the same flower two
such different essences as Thea and Hilda.
(4)See article by Herman Bang in _Neue deutsche Rundschau_, December
1906, p. 1495.
(5)Dr. Brahm (_Neue deutsche Rundschau_, December 1906, P. 1422) says
that after the first performance of _Hedda Gabler_ in Berlin Ibsen
confided to him that the character had been suggested by a German
lady whom he met in Munich, and who did not shoot, but poisoned
herself. Nothing more seems to be known of this lady. See, too,
an article by Julius Elias in the same magazine, p. 1460.
The inclusion or ommision of commas between repeated words ("well,
well"; "there there", etc.) in this etext is reproduced faithfully
from both the 1914 and 1926 editions of _Hedda Gabler_, copyright
1907 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Modern editions of the same
translation use the commas consistently throughout. -D.L.
PLAY IN FOUR ACTS.
HEDDA TESMAN, his wife.
MISS JULIANA TESMAN, his aunt.
BERTA, servant at the Tesmans.
*Tesman, whose Christian name in the original is "Jorgen," is
described as "stipendiat i kulturhistorie"--that is to say, the
holder of a scholarship for purposes of research into the History
**In the original "Assessor."
The scene of the action is Tesman's villa, in the west end
A spacious, handsome, and tastefully furnished drawing room,
decorated in dark colours. In the back, a wide doorway with
curtains drawn back, leading into a smaller room decorated
in the same style as the drawing-room. In the right-hand
wall of the front room, a folding door leading out to the
hall. In the opposite wall, on the left, a glass door, also
with curtains drawn back. Through the panes can be seen
part of a verandah outside, and trees covered with autumn
foliage. An oval table, with a cover on it, and surrounded
by chairs, stands well forward. In front, by the wall on
the right, a wide stove of dark porcelain, a high-backed
arm-chair, a cushioned foot-rest, and two footstools. A
settee, with a small round table in front of it, fills the
upper right-hand corner. In front, on the left, a little
way from the wall, a sofa. Further back than the glass
door, a piano. On either side of the doorway at the back
a whatnot with terra-cotta and majolica ornaments.--
Against the back wall of the inner room a sofa, with a
table, and one or two chairs. Over the sofa hangs the
portrait of a handsome elderly man in a General's uniform.
Over the table a hanging lamp, with an opal glass shade.--A
number of bouquets are arranged about the drawing-room, in
vases and glasses. Others lie upon the tables. The floors
in both rooms are covered with thick carpets.--Morning light.
The sun shines in through the glass door.
MISS JULIANA TESMAN, with her bonnet on a carrying a parasol,
comes in from the hall, followed by BERTA, who carries a
bouquet wrapped in paper. MISS TESMAN is a comely and pleasant-
looking lady of about sixty-five. She is nicely but simply
dressed in a grey walking-costume. BERTA is a middle-aged
woman of plain and rather countrified appearance.
[Stops close to the door, listens, and says softly:] Upon my word, I
don't believe they are stirring yet!
[Also softly.] I told you so, Miss. Remember how late the steamboat
got in last night. And then, when they got home!--good Lord, what a
lot the young mistress had to unpack before she could get to bed.
Well well--let them have their sleep out. But let us see that they
get a good breath of the fresh morning air when they do appear.
[She goes to the glass door and throws it open.
[Beside the table, at a loss what to do with the bouquet in her hand.]
I declare there isn't a bit of room left. I think I'll put it down
here, Miss. [She places it on the piano.
So you've got a new mistress now, my dear Berta. Heaven knows it was
a wrench to me to part with you.
[On the point of weeping.] And do you think it wasn't hard for me,
too, Miss? After all the blessed years I've been with you and Miss
We must make the best of it, Berta. There was nothing else to be
done. George can't do without you, you see-he absolutely can't.
He has had you to look after him ever since he was a little boy.
Ah but, Miss Julia, I can't help thinking of Miss Rina lying helpless
at home there, poor thing. And with only that new girl too! She'll
never learn to take proper care of an invalid.
Oh, I shall manage to train her. And of course, you know, I shall
take most of it upon myself. You needn't be uneasy about my poor
sister, my dear Berta.
Well, but there's another thing, Miss. I'm so mortally afraid I
shan't be able to suit the young mistress.
Oh well--just at first there may be one or two things---
Most like she'll be terrible grand in her ways.
Well, you can't wonder at that--General Gabler's daughter! Think of
the sort of life she was accustomed to in her father's time. Don't
you remember how we used to see her riding down the road along with
the General? In that long black habit--and with feathers in her hat?
Yes, indeed--I remember well enough!--But, good Lord, I should never
have dreamt in those days that she and Master George would make a
match of it.
Nor I.--But by-the-bye, Berta--while I think of it: in future you
mustn't say Master George. You must say Dr. Tesman.
Yes, the young mistress spoke of that too--last night--the moment
they set foot in the house. Is it true then, Miss?
Yes, indeed it is. Only think, Berta--some foreign university has
made him a doctor--while he has been abroad, you understand. I
hadn't heard a word about it, until he told me himself upon the pier.
Well well, he's clever enough for anything, he is. But I didn't think
he'd have gone in for doctoring people.
No no, it's not that sort of doctor he is. [Nods significantly.]
But let me tell you, we may have to call him something still grander
You don't day so! What can that be, Miss?
[Smiling.] H'm--wouldn't you like to know! [With emotion.] Ah,
dear dear--if my poor brother could only look up from his grave now,
and see what his little boy has grown into! [Looks around.] But
bless me, Berta--why have you done this? Taken the chintz covers off
all the furniture.
The mistress told me to. She can't abide covers on the chairs, she
Are they going to make this their everyday sitting-room then?
Yes, that's what I understood--from the mistress. Master George--the
doctor--he said nothing.
GEORGE TESMAN comes from the right into the inner room,
humming to himself, and carrying an unstrapped empty
portmanteau. He is a middle-sized, young-looking man of
thirty-three, rather stout, with a round, open, cheerful
face, fair hair and beard. He wears spectacles, and is
somewhat carelessly dressed in comfortable indoor clothes.
Good morning, good morning, George.
[In the doorway between the rooms.] Aunt Julia! Dear Aunt Julia!
[Goes up to her and shakes hands warmly.] Come all this way--so
Why, of course I had to come and see how you were getting on.
In spite of your having had no proper night's rest?
Oh, that makes no difference to me.
Well, I suppose you got home all right from the pier? Eh?
Yes, quite safely, thank goodness. Judge Brack was good enough to
see me right to my door.
We were so sorry we couldn't give you a seat in the carriage. But
you saw what a pile of boxes Hedda had to bring with her.
Yes, she had certainly plenty of boxes.
[To TESMAN.] Shall I go in and see if there's anything I can do for
No thank you, Berta--you needn't. She said she would ring if she
[Going towards the right.] Very well.
But look here--take this portmanteau with you.
[Taking it.] I'll put it in the attic.
[She goes out by the hall door.
Fancy, Auntie--I had the whole of that portmanteau chock full of
copies of the documents. You wouldn't believe how much I have picked
up from all the archives I have been examining--curious old details
that no one has had any idea of---
Yes, you don't seem to have wasted you time on your wedding trip,
No, that I haven't. But do take off your bonnet, Auntie. Look here!
Let me untie the strings--eh?
[While he does so.] Well well--this is just as if you were still at
home with us.
[With the bonnet in his hand, looks at it from all sides.] Why, what
a gorgeous bonnet you've been investing in!
I bought it on Hedda's account.
On Hedda's account? Eh?
Yes, so that Hedda needn't be ashamed of me if we happened to go out
[Patting her cheek.] You always think of everything, Aunt Julia.
[Lays the bonnet on a chair beside the table.] And now, look here--
suppose we sit comfortably on the sofa and have a little chat, till
[They seat themselves. She places her parasol in the corner
of the sofa.
[Takes both his hands and looks at him.] What a delight it is to
have you again, as large as life, before my very eyes, George! My
George--my poor brother's own boy!
And it's a delight for me, too, to see you again, Aunt Julia! You,
who have been father and mother in one to me.
Oh yes, I know you will always keep a place in your heart for your
And what about Aunt Rina? No improvement--eh?
Oh, no--we can scarcely look for any improvement in her case, poor
thing. There she lies, helpless, as she has lain for all these years.
But heaven grant I may not lose her yet awhile! For if I did, I don't
know what I should make of my life, George--especially now that I
haven't you to look after any more.
[Patting her back.] There there there---!
[Suddenly changing her tone.] And to think that here are you a married
man, George!--And that you should be the one to carry off Hedda Gabler
--the beautiful Hedda Gabler! Only think of it--she, that was so
beset with admirers!
[Hums a little and smiles complacently.] Yes, I fancy I have several
good friends about town who would like to stand in my shoes--eh?
And then this fine long wedding-tour you have had! More than five--
nearly six months---
Well, for me it has been a sort of tour of research as well. I have
had to do so much grubbing among old records--and to read no end of
books too, Auntie.
Oh yes, I suppose so. [More confidentially, and lowering her voice
a little.] But listen now, George,--have you nothing--nothing special
to tell me?
As to our journey?
No, I don't know of anything except what I have told you in my
letters. I had a doctor's degree conferred on me--but that I told
Yes, yes, you did. But what I mean is--haven't you any--any--
Why you know, George--I'm your old auntie!
Why, of course I have expectations.
I have every expectation of being a professor one of these days.
Oh yes, a professor---
Indeed, I may say I am certain of it. But my dear Auntie--you know
all about that already!
[Laughing to herself.] Yes, of course I do. You are quite right
there. [Changing the subject.] But we were talking about your
journey. It must have cost a great deal of money, George?
Well, you see--my handsome travelling-scholarship went a good way.
But I can't understand how you can have made it go far enough for two.
No, that's not easy to understand--eh?
And especially travelling with a lady--they tell me that makes it ever
so much more expensive.
Yes, of course--it makes it a little more expensive. But Hedda had to
have this trip, Auntie! She really had to. Nothing else would have
No no, I suppose not. A wedding-tour seems to be quite indispensable
nowadays.--But tell me now--have you gone thoroughly over the house
Yes, you may be sure I have. I have been afoot ever since daylight.
And what do you think of it all?
I'm delighted! Quite delighted! Only I can't think what we are to
do with the two empty rooms between this inner parlour and Hedda's
[Laughing.] Oh my dear George, I daresay you may find some use for
them--in the course of time.
Why of course you are quite right, Aunt Julia! You mean as my library
Yes, quite so, my dear boy. It was your library I was thinking of.
I am specially pleased on Hedda's account. Often and often, before
we were engaged, she said that she would never care to live anywhere
but in Secretary Falk's villa.(2)
Yes, it was lucky that this very house should come into the market,
just after you had started.
Yes, Aunt Julia, the luck was on our side, wasn't it--eh?
But the expense, my dear George! You will find it very expensive,
[Looks at her, a little cast down.] Yes, I suppose I shall, Aunt!
How much do you think? In round numbers?--Eh?
Oh, I can't even guess until all the accounts come in.
Well, fortunately, Judge Brack has secured the most favourable terms
for me, so he said in a letter to Hedda.
Yes, don't be uneasy, my dear boy.--Besides, I have given security
for the furniture and all the carpets.
Security? You? My dear Aunt Julia--what sort of security could you
I have given a mortgage on our annuity.
[Jumps up.] What! On your--and Aunt Rina's annuity!
Yes, I knew of no other plan, you see.
[Placing himself before her.] Have you gone out of your senses,
Auntie? Your annuity--it's all that you and Aunt Rina have to
Well well--don't get so excited about it. It's only a matter of
form you know--Judge Brack assured me of that. It was he that was
kind enough to arrange the whole affair for me. A mere matter of
form, he said.
Yes, that may be all very well. But nevertheless---
You will have your own salary to depend upon now. And, good heavens,
even if we did have to pay up a little---! To eke things out a bit
at the start---! Why, it would be nothing but a pleasure to us.
Oh Auntie--will you never be tired of making sacrifices for me!
[Rises and lays her hand on his shoulders.] Have I any other happiness
in this world except to smooth your way for you, my dear boy. You,
who have had neither father nor mother to depend on. And now we have
reached the goal, George! Things have looked black enough for us,
sometimes; but, thank heaven, now you have nothing to fear.
Yes, it is really marvellous how every thing has turned out for the
And the people who opposed you--who wanted to bar the way for you--
now you have them at your feet. They have fallen, George. Your most
dangerous rival--his fall was the worst.--And now he has to lie on
the bed he has made for himself--poor misguided creature.
Have you heard anything of Eilert? Since I went away, I mean.
Only that he is said to have published a new book.
What! Eilert Lovborg! Recently--eh?
Yes, so they say. Heaven knows whether it can be worth anything! Ah,
when your new book appears--that will be another story, George! What
is it to be about?
It will deal with the domestic industries of Brabant during the
Fancy--to be able to write on such a subject as that!
However, it may be some time before the book is ready. I have all
these collections to arrange first, you see.
Yes, collecting and arranging--no one can beat you at that. There
you are my poor brother's own son.
I am looking forward eagerly to setting to work at it; especially now
that I have my own delightful home to work in.
And, most of all, now that you have got the wife of your heart, my
[Embracing her.] Oh yes, yes, Aunt Julia! Hedda--she is the best
part of it all! I believe I hear her coming--eh?
HEDDA enters from the left through the inner room. Her face
and figure show refinement and distinction. Her complexion
is pale and opaque. Her steel-grey eyes express a cold,
unruffled repose. Her hair is of an agreeable brown, but
not particularly abundant. She is dressed in a tasteful,
somewhat loose-fitting morning gown.
[Going to meet HEDDA.] Good morning, my dear Hedda! Good morning,
and a hearty welcome!
[Holds out her hand.] Good morning, dear Miss Tesman! So early a
call! That is kind of you.
[With some embarrassment.] Well--has the bride slept well in her
Oh yes, thanks. Passably.
[Laughing.] Passably! Come, that's good, Hedda! You were sleeping
like a stone when I got up.
Fortunately. Of course one has always to accustom one's self to new
surroundings, Miss Tesman--little by little. [Looking towards the
left.] Oh, there the servant has gone and opened the veranda door,
and let in a whole flood of sunshine.
[Going towards the door.] Well, then we will shut it.
No no, not that! Tesman, please draw the curtains. That will give a
[At the door.] All right--all right.--There now, Hedda, now you have
both shade and fresh air.
Yes, fresh air we certainly must have, with all these stacks of
flowers---. But--won't you sit down, Miss Tesman?
No, thank you. Now that I have seen that everything is all right
here--thank heaven!--I must be getting home again. My sister is
lying longing for me, poor thing.
Give her my very best love, Auntie; and say I shall look in and see
her later in the day.
Yes, yes, I'll be sure to tell her. But by-the-bye, George--[Feeling
in her dress pocket]--I had almost forgotten--I have something for
What is it, Auntie? Eh?
[Produces a flat parcel wrapped in newspaper and hands it to him.]
Look here, my dear boy.
[Opening the parcel.] Well, I declare!--Have you really saved them
for me, Aunt Julia! Hedda! isn't this touching--eh?
[Beside the whatnot on the right.] Well, what is it?
My old morning-shoes! My slippers.
Indeed. I remember you often spoke of them while we were abroad.
Yes, I missed them terribly. [Goes up to her.] Now you shall see
[Going towards the stove.] Thanks, I really don't care about it.
[Following her.] Only think--ill as she was, Aunt Rina embroidered
these for me. Oh you can't think how many associations cling to them.
[At the table.] Scarcely for me.
Of course not for Hedda, George.
Well, but now that she belongs to the family, I thought---
[Interrupting.] We shall never get on with this servant, Tesman.
Not get on with Berta?
Why, dear, what puts that in your head? Eh?
[Pointing.] Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on
[In consternation, drops the slippers on the floor.] Why, Hedda---
Just fancy, if any one should come in and see it!
But Hedda--that's Aunt Julia's bonnet.
[Taking up the bonnet.] Yes, indeed it's mine. And, what's more,
it's not old, Madam Hedda.
I really did not look closely at it, Miss Tesman.
[Trying on the bonnet.] Let me tell you it's the first time I have
worn it--the very first time.
And a very nice bonnet it is too--quite a beauty!
Oh, it's no such great things, George. [Looks around her.] My
parasol---? Ah, here. [Takes it.] For this is mine too--[mutters]
A new bonnet and a new parasol! Only think, Hedda.
Very handsome indeed.
Yes, isn't it? Eh? But Auntie, take a good look at Hedda before you
go! See how handsome she is!
Oh, my dear boy, there's nothing new in that. Hedda was always lovely.
[She nods and goes toward the right.
[Following.] Yes, but have you noticed what splendid condition she
is in? How she has filled out on the journey?
[Crossing the room.] Oh, do be quiet---!
[Who has stopped and turned.] Filled out?
Of course you don't notice it so much now that she has that dress on.
But I, who can see---
[At the glass door, impatiently.] Oh, you can't see anything.
It must be the mountain air in the Tyrol---
[Curtly, interrupting.] I am exactly as I was when I started.
So you insist; but I'm quite certain you are not. Don't you agree
with me, Auntie?
[Who has been gazing at her with folded hands.] Hedda is lovely--
lovely--lovely. [Goes up to her, takes her head between both hands,
draws it downwards, and kisses her hair.] God bless and preserve
Hedda Tesman--for George's sake.
[Gently freeing herself.] Oh--! Let me go.
[In quiet emotion.] I shall not let a day pass without coming to see
No you won't, will you, Auntie? Eh?
[She goes out by the hall door. TESMAN accompanies her. The
door remains half open. TESMAN can be heard repeating his
message to Aunt Rina and his thanks for the slippers.
[In the meantime, HEDDA walks about the room, raising her arms
and clenching her hands as if in desperation. Then she flings
back the curtains from the glass door, and stands there looking
[Presently, TESMAN returns and closes the door behind him.
[Picks up the slippers from the floor.] What are you looking at,
[Once more calm and mistress of herself.] I am only looking at the
leaves. They are so yellow--so withered.
[Wraps up the slippers and lays them on the table.] Well, you see,
we are well into September now.
[Again restless.] Yes, to think of it!--already in--in September.
Don't you think Aunt Julia's manner was strange, dear? Almost solemn?
Can you imagine what was the matter with her? Eh?
I scarcely know her, you see. Is she not often like that?
No, not as she was to-day.
[Leaving the glass door.] Do you think she was annoyed about the
Oh, scarcely at all. Perhaps a little, just at the moment---
But what an idea, to pitch her bonnet about in the drawing-room! No
one does that sort of thing.
Well you may be sure Aunt Julia won't do it again.
In any case, I shall manage to make my peace with her.
Yes, my dear, good Hedda, if you only would.
When you call this afternoon, you might invite her to spend the
Yes, that I will. And there's one thing more you could do that would
delight her heart.
What is it?
If you could only prevail on yourself to say _du_(3) to her. For my
sake, Hedda? Eh?
No, no, Tesman--you really mustn't ask that of me. I have told you so
already. I shall try to call her "Aunt"; and you must be satisfied
Well well. Only I think now that you belong to the family, you---
H'm--I can't in the least see why---
[She goes up towards the middle doorway.
[After a pause.] Is there anything the matter with you, Hedda? Eh?
I'm only looking at my old piano. It doesn't go at all well with all
the other things.
The first time I draw my salary, we'll see about exchanging it.
No, no--no exchanging. I don't want to part with it. Suppose we put
it there in the inner room, and then get another here in its place.
When it's convenient, I mean.
[A little taken aback.] Yes--of course we could do that.
[Takes up the bouquet from the piano.] These flowers were not here
last night when we arrived.
Aunt Julia must have brought them for you.
[Examining the bouquet.] A visiting-card. [Takes it out and reads:]
"Shall return later in the day." Can you guess whose card it is?
No. Whose? Eh?
The name is "Mrs. Elvsted."
Is it really? Sheriff Elvsted's wife? Miss Rysing that was.
Exactly. The girl with the irritating hair, that she was always
showing off. An old flame of yours I've been told.
[Laughing.] Oh, that didn't last long; and it was before I met you,
Hedda. But fancy her being in town!
It's odd that she should call upon us. I have scarcely seen her since
we left school.
I haven't see her either for--heaven knows how long. I wonder how
she can endure to live in such an out-of-the way hole--eh?
[After a moment's thought, says suddenly.] Tell me, Tesman--isn't it
somewhere near there that he--that--Eilert Lovborg is living?
Yes, he is somewhere in that part of the country.
BERTA enters by the hall door.
That lady, ma'am, that brought some flowers a little while ago, is
here again. [Pointing.] The flowers you have in your hand, ma'am.
Ah, is she? Well, please show her in.
BERTA opens the door for MRS. ELVSTED, and goes out herself.
--MRS. ELVSTED is a woman of fragile figure, with pretty,
soft features. Her eyes are light blue, large, round, and
somewhat prominent, with a startled, inquiring expression.
Her hair is remarkably light, almost flaxen, and unusually
abundant and wavy. She is a couple of years younger than
HEDDA. She wears a dark visiting dress, tasteful, but not
quite in the latest fashion.
[Receives her warmly.] How do you do, my dear Mrs. Elvsted? It's
delightful to see you again.
[Nervously, struggling for self-control.] Yes, it's a very long time
since we met.
[Gives her his hand.] And we too--eh?
Thanks for your lovely flowers---
Oh, not at all---. I would have come straight here yesterday
afternoon; but I heard that you were away---
Have you just come to town? Eh?
I arrived yesterday, about midday. Oh, I was quite in despair when I
heard that you were not at home.
In despair! How so?
Why, my dear Mrs. Rysing--I mean Mrs. Elvsted---
I hope that you are not in any trouble?
Yes, I am. And I don't know another living creature here that I can
[Laying the bouquet on the table.] Come--let us sit here on the
Oh, I am too restless to sit down.
Oh no, you're not. Come here.
[She draws MRS. ELVSTED down upon the sofa and sits at her side.
Well? What is it, Mrs. Elvsted---?
Has anything particular happened to you at home?
Yes--and no. Oh--I am so anxious you should not misunderstand me---
Then your best plan is to tell us the whole story, Mrs. Elvsted.
I suppose that's what you have come for--eh?
Yes, yes--of course it is. Well then, I must tell you--if you don't
already know--that Eilert Lovborg is in town, too.
What! Has Eilert Lovborg come back? Fancy that, Hedda!
Well well--I hear it.
He has been here a week already. Just fancy--a whole week! In this
terrible town, alone! With so many temptations on all sides.
But, my dear Mrs. Elvsted--how does he concern you so much?
[Looks at her with a startled air, and says rapidly.] He was the
My husband's. I have none.
Your step-children's, then?
[Somewhat hesitatingly.] Then was he--I don't know how to express
it--was he--regular enough in his habits to be fit for the post? Eh?
For the last two years his conduct has been irreproachable.
Has it indeed? Fancy that, Hedda!
I hear it.
Perfectly irreproachable, I assure you! In every respect. But all
the same--now that I know he is here--in this great town--and with a
large sum of money in his hands--I can't help being in mortal fear
Why did he not remain where he was? With you and your husband? Eh?
After his book was published he was too restless and unsettled to
remain with us.
Yes, by-the-bye, Aunt Julia told me he had published a new book.
Yes, a big book, dealing with the march of civilisation--in broad
outline, as it were. It came out about a fortnight ago. And
since it has sold so well, and been so much read--and made such a
Has it indeed? It must be something he has had lying by since his
Long ago, you mean?
No, he has written it all since he has been with us--within the last
Isn't that good news, Hedda? Think of that.
Ah yes, if only it would last!
Have you seen him here in town?
No, not yet. I have had the greatest difficulty in finding out his
address. But this morning I discovered it at last.
[Looks searchingly at her.] Do you know, it seems to me a little odd
of your husband--h'm---
[Starting nervously.] Of my husband! What?
That he should send you to town on such an errand--that he does not
come himself and look after his friend.
Oh no, no--my husband has no time. And besides, I--I had some
shopping to do.
[With a slight smile.] Ah, that is a different matter.
[Rising quickly and uneasily.] And now I beg and implore you, Mr.
Tesman--receive Eilert Lovborg kindly if he comes to you! And that
he is sure to do. You see you were such great friends in the old
days. And then you are interested in the same studies--the same
branch of science--so far as I can understand.
We used to be at any rate.
That is why I beg so earnestly that you--you too--will keep a sharp
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