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the author of the Narrative of Niels Klim, was the
most eminent writer
among the Danes in the eighteenth century...
"The Journey to the World under ground," or "Narrative of Niels Klim," had been
written for a long time, but he had refrained from printing it from an unwillingness to
provoke enmity. But the importunity of friends, and the generous offer of a bookseller
finally prevailed, and he put it into the printer's hands. The following account of this
performance is abridged from his autobiography.
There are many persons of both sexes in my country, who believe in fairies and
supernatural beings, and who are ready to swear, that they have been conveyed by spirits
to hills and mountain caves. This superstition is ridiculed in Klim, the hero of the tale. He
is supposed to be transported to the world under ground, where he meets with some
surprising adventures. Many strange creatures inhabit this new world; trees, for instance,
are introduced, endowed with speech, and musical instruments discuss questions of
philosophy and finance. Amongst the characters, those geniuses, who perceive everything
at a glance, but penetrate nothing, are conspicuous. People of quick perception, whom we
use to admire, are despised by the Potuans, who look upon them as idle loungers, that,
though always moving, make no progress. Prudent men, on the contrary, who measure
their own strength, and advance cautiously, are greatly esteemed by that nation, though
with us they pass for fools or cowards. The Potuans and Martinians are examples of both
these extremes. By the former Klim was considered a blockhead, on account of the
quickness of his perceptions; by the latter he was equally despised for the slowness of his
apprehension. To Klim, who measures virtues and vices by the ordinary standard,
everything is a paradox; but what he at first condemns, he admires and extols after
deliberation; so that the object of the whole work is to correct popular errors, and to
distinguish the semblance of virtue and vice from the reality. Its subordinate design is to
expose the monstrous fictions, which some authors obtrude upon us in their descriptions
of remote countries.
"The Narrative of Niels Klim," though written so many years ago, contains many satirical
hits, exceedingly applicable to the present time; thus showing that what appears to one
age to be a whim altogether new, may be, in fact, only some old notion newly
promulgated. Greater liberties were allowed at that period in literature than would now be
permitted. Holberg's humorous productions are not wholly free from a fault, whose
existence the taste of any age may explain, but does not excuse.
After living in competency for many years in Copenhagen, he was, in 1747, created a
baron by the king of Denmark. He died in 1754.