Zakris Topelius - Encyclopedia




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ZAKRIS TOPELIUS [ZACHARIAS] (1818-1898), Finnish author, was born at Kuddnas, near Nykarleby, on the 14th of January 1818. He was the son of a doctor of the same name, who was distinguished as the earliest collector of Finnish folk-songs. Topelius became a student at Helsingfors in 1833, was made professor in 1863 and received in succession all the, academic distinctions open to him. Quite early in his career he began to distinguish himself as a lyric poet, with the three successive volumes of his Heather Blossoms (1845-1854). The earliest of his historical romances was The Duchess of Finland, published in 1850. He was also editor-in-chief of the Helsingfors Gazette from 1841 to 1860. In 1878 Topelius was allowed to withdraw from his professional duties, but this did not sever his connexion with the university; it gave him, however, more leisure for his abundant and various literary enterprises. Of all the multifarious writings of Topelius, in prose and verse, that which has enjoyed the greatest popularity is his Tales of a Barber-Surgeon, episodes of historical fiction from the days of Gustavus II. Adolphus to those of Gustavus III., treated in the manner of Sir Walter Scott; the five volumes of this work appeared at intervals between 1853 and 1867. Topelius attempted the drama also, with most success in his tragedy of Regina von Emmeritz (1854). Topelius aimed, with eminent but perhaps pathetic success, at the cultivation of a strong passion of patriotism in Finland. He died on the 13th of March 1898 at Helsingfors. Topelius was an exceptionally happy writer for children, his best-known book being Leisning for barn. His abundant poetry is graceful and patriotic, but does not offer any features of great originality. (E. G.)

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