Kopenhagen 17 November 1856
(Nyhavn No 34)
My dear and respected friend!
It is now a very long time since I had the pleasure of hearing from you, yet I hope that this letter will however find you and your family well and happy. In the last two years I have not published any new book – a Danish edition of my collected works in 22 Volumes, was the last here in Denmark, but during that long time I have been fully occupied with a new work, the close of which I am fast approaching. It represents the minds combat between “Belief and Knowledge” – shows that the kingdom of this world and that to come, are not opposed to each other n short it will be an argumentation against Materialism and clearly express the hope of immortality. The hero of the Novel owns as a child, only two books – “The Bible” and “The Arabian Nights’ Tales” – he then dreams that he is Aladdin, goes down into the cavern and fetches the lamp of fortune, and as he comes home with it by daylight, it [is] his mother’s old bible. This dream is like a previous /
image of his whole life. He is educated by a pius orthodox priest, and shall himself take holy orders but during his development in science, his whole knowledge of nature is, that he resigns this profession, he becomes a Pantheist, nay even a Materialist, but in life’s combat and wrestling he is led on so that , his childhood’s dream is made clear to him; he has really descended like an Aladdin into the cavern, which is that of science, with its wonderful fruits; there he has sought for thelamp of religion and it is the old bible, which he reads with his whole soul’s development and also with that of a child’s belief.
This is a short skets of the contents which in my way, with changing images of nature, of poetry, and I dare say it, with that of humour, collects itself into one whole. The book will be in size about the same as “The two Baronesses”, perhaps somewhat less, and I think of finishing it this year, so that it could appear in April or May next year. I wish that it could be published on the same day in English, Danish and German and therefore as I now work on its conclusion I write to you, dear friend, to know if you will / have it, and on what conditions, for I make none whatever, but leave the whole to your consideration and friendship, but I must know if you will thatt I shall, here in Copenhagen, have it transladed by Mr: Beckwith, under my own superintendence, but as I must
Consequently pay him a fixed sum for it, and I must naturally ‘by’ a little more than assured thereof. I take the liberty to ask you my friend, candidly, and openly, what you, without risk, can and will give mpr. Printed sheet, as you have printed “In Sweden” or “The two Baronesses”. – You can name the least sum, only that I can se I am secured from having a loss, where I expected a gain. Write to me your friendly determination clearly, in the course of a month. I know that you will also take my interest into consideration and and therefore I resign myself entierely to that.
The title of the book will be “To be or not to be”, words whis all the world understands from Shakespeares “Hamlet”. This is now my proposal if there be anything therein to which you object I shall hear it from you.
With my best wishes for yourself and family I conclude these lines./
Perhaps we may meet in the course of next year, as Dickens has kindly invited me to his house, and I could have a great desire to come, especially if as I hope, by a new work, may see myself worthy of the good will of my English friends.
Yours sincerely attached
Hans Christian Andersen