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Henrik Ibsenís childhood in Skien 1828-1843 - from prosperity to poverty

The first fifteen years of Ibsenís life in Skien were a class journey from prosperity to poverty. Until the early summer of 1834 the Ibsen family was one of Skienís most prosperous. But in the course of only one year − a year with a rude beginning when the authorities shut down the large distilled spirits boiler − the family was completely dispossessed and thrown into destitution.

Ibsenís Childhood Memories

In 1881 Ibsen wrote down his own childhood memories, which seven years later came in print in Henrik Jśgerís biography on Ibsen. The memories are reproduced underneath in transcription from Henrik Jśger, The Life of Henrik Ibsen. Translated by Clara Bell. London, William Heinemann, 1890, pp. 5-13.

Ibsenís Skien

During the time when Ibsen lived in Skien the town was one of the largest in Norway. Skien was, due to an extensive shipping and timber trade, a town with close ties to Europe. Cultural impulses, ideas and artefacts from the continent and England were rapidly transmitted to the merchant citizenry of Skien.

The years at VenstÝp

Henrik Ibsen lived at VenstÝp from the age of 7 until he was 15 years old, together with his three brothers, sister Hedvig and parents.

Farewell to Skien

In November 1843 Henrik Ibsen travelled with the boat named "Lykkens prÝve" to Grimstad where he worked as an apothecaryís apprentice up until 1850. For the rest of his life he had little contact with the family. In a letter to BjÝrnstjerne BjÝrnson dated 09 December 1867 he wrote: "You know that I for all of my life have retreated from my own parents, from my entire family, because I could not remain in a relationship of compromised understanding?"