Victoria Benedictsson (née Bruzelius), born on 6 March 1850, was a Swedish novelist who used the male pen name Ernst Ahlgren in order to get her books published. Victoria ended her days in 1888 at the age of 38, and this is her tragic story.
Victoria grew up at a farm in Southern Sweden.At an early age she became interested in drawing and painting and she developed quite a talent. To develop her talent further, she wanted to travel to Stockholm to study art in a formal way. Consequently, after getting permission from her father, she got a job as a private teacher to earn the Money necessary to sustain her while in Stockholm. At the age of 21, she hade saved enough money, but when time came for her to depart for Stockholm, her father suddenly changed his mind and forbade her to go. Instead he suggested she should get married since she had passed the age of 16, which was not an un-common age to get married at.
Victoria was devestated by her fathers sudden change of mind, and to get away from her parents she married the twenty-seven years older Christian Benedictsson, who worked as a postmaster. He had been married Before, but was now a widower and had five Children from the previous marriage. Victoria was chocked by what “female duties” was expected from her and she was not very comfortable in her marriage with Christian, but they had two daughters of their own, Hilma born in 1873 (died in 1931), and Ellen born in 1776. Ellen died just one month old.
In 1882, Victoria suffered from osteopetrosis (a bone disease) which forced her to stay in bed for long periods of time. During this time she began todevelop her Writing, and in 1884 she published a Collection of novels called From Scania (Från Skåne), and the following year her novel Money (Pengar) was published. Money is an autobiography where Victoria’s alter ego Selma, 16 years old, Dreams of becoming an artist but her father will not let her. Instead Selma marries an older man.
After earning some Money from her novels, Victoria decided to leave her family to move to Copenhagen in Denmark, just like many Swedish authors did during this time, to develop her creativity. It was here she in 1886 met her great love, the Danish literature critic Georg Brandes (see photo below). Brandes, born in 1842, had 30 years old formulated the principles of a new realism and naturalism, condemning hyper-aesthetic Writing and also fantasy in literature. His views were quickly adapted by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.
Benedictsson’s and Brandes love affair started out in 1886, and Victoria completely adored the intelligent critic. When they could not see each other,she wrote him lenghty love letters, many of which is still preserved. Reading her letters to him reveals that she was worried of not being intelligent enough for him, and that he would consequently leave her.
In 1887, Victoria got her novel Mrs Marianne (Fru Marianne) published. The main character is Marianne, who is a romantic, spoiled farmers wife, who develops into a good, caring wife who stays by her husbands side. The novel had received both positive and some negative critique, and Victoria also knew that it did not follow the maxims of her beloved Brandes’s principles. At this time, she also began suffering from money shortage, which made her doubt her artistic talent even more. To make things even worse, Georg Brandes brother, Edvard, who worked as a literature critic at the Danish newspaper Politiken (The Politics), wrote in the summer 1888 a patronizing review of Mrs Marianne, calling it “a ladies novel”.
Victoria was devastated and locked herself up in her room at Leopold’s Hotel in Copenhagen. On 18 July 1888 she wrote a letter to Georg Brandes,saying:
“If I live or die does not matter to you, I have no means to win your affection – I am not rich or beautiful or intelligent. Nothing! Without your affection and kindness the World is empty to me….You once said: ‘The only real goodbye, is the one that is never said’. It is those words that has nailed themselves in my mind, and because of that it feels like the whole sky turns black when you walk away, as if the sun would never again rise. And because of that I cannot work. When I never again can see you, then everything is over.”
These were the last words written by Victoria Benedictsson. On the night between the 22 and 23 July 1888, she took a razor knife and slit her own throat in her hotel room. Even if her career as an author was very short, she is considered to be one of the 1880’s leading realistic Swedish authors, alongside August Strindberg. Strindberg even used Victoria’s suicide as inspiration to finish his acclaimed drama Fröken Julie (Miss Julie, 1888).
Victoria Benedictsson’s diaries was not published as a whole until 1985. She is buried in Copenhagen at the Vestre Kirkegård.