Authors: Viktor Rydberg

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

Swedish novelist and poet.

December 18, 1828

Jönköping, United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway (now Sweden)

September 21, 1895

Djursholm, United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway (now Sweden)


Abraham Viktor Rydberg, born in Jönköping into a lower-class Swedish family on December 18, 1828, had a difficult childhood. It may have been this difficult time that turned him toward his later romantic writing. Influenced in his early youth by contemporary liberalism, he studied at the University of Lund and in 1854 turned to journalism.

Viktor Rydberg.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1855 he joined the staff of the leading newspaper of the city of Göteborg (Gothenburg), and his romantic novels first appeared as serials in the columns of this newspaper. The first of these works, Fribytaren på Östersjön (1857; The Freebooter of the Baltic, 1891), won him some acclaim; it contains evidences of the idealism that was to be more fully developed in his later novels. Of his novels, Den siste Athenaren (1859; The Last Athenian, 1869) is the most famous. By the time of its publication, Rydberg was generally regarded in the first rank of Swedish novelists.

Turning to religion, he produced the first Swedish modern critical study of the Bible, Bibelns lära om Kristus (The Bible’s teaching about Christ, 1862). Besides his work in the novel and in theological criticism he produced a great deal of material in the fields of aesthetics, philosophy, and psychology. His translation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, published in 1876, shows the profound influence that the earlier German writer had on Rydberg’s romanticism. Rydberg appeared on the Swedish literary scene after a relatively barren period. Historically, he was one of the last of the romantics and certainly one of the few idealists of the period.

Author Works Long Fiction: Fribytaren på Östersjön, 1857 (The Freebooter of the Baltic, 1891) Singoalla, 1857 (Singoalla: A Romance, 1903) Den siste Athenaren, 1859 (The Last Athenian, 1869) Vapensmeden, 1891 Children’s/Young Adult Literature: Lille Viggs äventyr på julafton, 1871 (Little Vigg's Christmas Eve, 1885 [magazine], 1924 [book]) Fädernas gudasaga, 1887 Poetry: Dikter, 1882 (first collection) Dikter, 1891 (second collection) Nonfiction: Bibelns lära om Kristus, 1862 Medeltidens magi, 1865 (The Magic of the Middle Ages, 1879) Romerska sägner om apostlarne Petrus och Paulus, 1874 (Roman Legends about the Apostles Paul and Peter, 1898) Romerska dagar, 1877 (Roman Day, 1879) Undersökningar i germanisk mythologi, 1886–89 (2 volumes; Teutonic Mythology [vol. 1], 1889; Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology [vol. 2], 2004–7) Varia: Tankar och bilder, 1894 Translation: Faust, 1876 (of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust) Bibliography Algulin, Ingemar. A History of Swedish Literature. Swedish Institute, 1989. A general survey of Swedish literature that includes some discussion of Rydberg's work. Bredsdorff, Elias, et al. An Introduction to Scandinavian Literature, from the Earliest Time to Our Day. 1951. Greenwood Press, 1970. A survey of Scandinavian literature that assesses Rydberg as “a fighter for broader perspectives and loftier ideals, in fact for a better world.” Moffett, Judith, editor and translator. The North! To the North! Five Swedish Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Southern Illinois UP, 2001. Includes ten of Rydberg's poems, both in the original Swedish and in English translation, as well as a timeline of his life and a ten-page overview and assessment of his life and work. Steene, Birgitta. “Liberalism, Realism, and the Modern Breakthrough, 1830–1890.” A History of Swedish Literature, edited by Lars G. Warme, U of Nebraska P, 1996, pp. 204–72. Discusses Rydberg's portrayal of his personal ideology in his historical novels, as well as parallels between his fiction and his poetry.

Scott, Lars Emil. “Viktor Rydberg.” Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature, edited by Virpi Zuck et al, St. James Press, 1990, pp. 498–99. Includes lists of Rydberg's major works, available English translations, and literary studies of his work.

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